The Kitten, the Witches and the Bad Wardrobe - Willow & Tara Forever

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 Post subject: Night of Broken Glass --New Fic
PostPosted: Fri Sep 21, 2007 9:16 pm 
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2. Floating Rose
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Joined: Fri Sep 21, 2007 8:23 pm
Posts: 40
Location: Portland, Oregon
Hello, kittens!

This is my first fanfiction posting , and my first post to the kitten board. I've read a ton of great stories here, and I wanted to add one of my own. This is part 1 of a 10-part story. I'll post in pieces and would love feedback along the way.



Night of Broken Glass

By Junecleavage


Rating: NC-17 for explicit sex and violence. There’s character death and a lot of close calls.

Disclaimer: I don’t own the characters of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I’m not doing this for money or intend in any way to infringe upon the rights of the Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy or any other rightful owners. I’m just a huge fan.

Feedback: Yes, please. This is my first published fanfic ever, so feel free to comment!

Uber setting: It’s 1943 Berlin, and the Nazis are the Big Bad

Summary: Inspired by the great biography of Aimee & Jaguar. In Nazi Germany, Willow Rosenberg pretends to be a non-Jew in order to survive (with the help of Xander and Buffy). She gets herself on the Gestapo’s hit list and meets and falls in love with Tara, a woman whose family are Nazi supporters. Lots of Buffyverse characters are here. I do not claim to be an expert on WWII, German military or Germany for that matter, but I did use Wikipedia a lot.




Part 1

The bell jangled as the door swung wide, admitting a gust of cold wind that swept in what appeared to be a small girl wrapped in a dark coat and scarf. She scurried into the cafe spotting the booth right away and made a beeline to where a clean-cut, dark-haired young man sat nursing a hot cup of coffee between his cold hands. She unraveled her head, ran a hand hastily through red curls and dropped into the booth across from him, taking his hand in her own and giving him a big smile.

It was the same almost every evening and had been since last spring, the shop-keeper thought, watching the pair from across the room with the same detached interest he had about all of his regulars. These two would swing in first, followed by another pal, a blond girl about their same age. They'd all order coffees and maybe a slice of pie, maybe pore over some books together for a while and then slip back into the night. He assumed they were students at the university and kind of admired how they managed to keep a routine together when so much in Berlin these days was changing.

The boy ran his thumb along the girl's hand and her smile grew in intensity. They leaned in close across the table in animated chatter. Were they dating? Or was he dating the other one, the blond? The shopkeeper had given up long ago trying to guess.

The boy turned to the shopkeeper, happily chirping out, "Hey, Helmut, another cup of coffee over here and a slice of pie for the lady."

The shopkeeper nodded and brought the food around. The redhead smiled up at him with happily innocent eyes as he poured her cup of coffee. It seemed all too rare these days to see anyone looking so happy that the shopkeeper couldn't help but return the smile in spite of himself. He set the slice of pie on the table between the couple and rested two forks beside it.

"Your friend the blond coming in tonight?" Helmut asked, though he was pretty sure he knew the answer.

The boy spoke, "Buffy? Yeah, she should be along any minute."

Helmut nodded and set down a third fork before turning and heading back to the bar. He had more cups of coffee to pour for the rest of his regulars. He got back to work, a small ghost of the smile still at the corners of his mouth. Buffy--that was the blond's name.


##


"So, did you get it?" Willow asked breathlessly, leaning across the table and pulling Xander's hands away from the warmth of his coffee cup.

"Yeow, your hands are like death!" he protested, adding: "...If death were located somewhere near Iceland. And it was winter. Where the hell are your gloves?"

Willow knew the pair he was talking about. They had been his gift to her. Only now she couldn't remember the last time she'd seen them. She grinned and lied to him, "They're at home."

Xander tipped his head skeptically. "Ha, ha. Right. Considering you don't really have a home."

There was no malice in his comment. It was just a fact, and one she had long ago vowed not to let matter to her, so it didn't matter to Xander, either. She diverted the conversation back to its original course. "Come on. Tell me. Did you get the papers?"

Xander let his breath out in a big sigh, as Willow leaned in closer across the table, encircling his hands in her slim, icy grasp. The sigh was for being reminded of the trouble it had taken him to get something so small--and papery--but then his eyes brightened. "Yes," he said emphatically. His smile was playful and smug.

Willow just about burst at the news. She wiggled, grinning happily. "I knew it! I just had this feeling that today was going to be my lucky day. And don't I deserve a lucky day every here and there considering the odds of me having one are fairly stacked against me and that, well, in fact, I should have run for the hills a long time ago. Wow. What is today? The 26th? The 26th is now, officially, my lucky day."

Xander beamed affectionately. "As of today-the lucky 26th of January, 1943--you're no longer Willow Rosenberg," he said, his voice barely a whisper.

Willow considered this playfully, a sly blush creeping across her cheeks. "I wonder who I am?" It was as if suddenly all the world had opened up to her. Xander turned his head and called out to the shopkeeper for coffee and pie.

When they were delivered to the table, Willow couldn't help but beam happily up at the shopkeeper. She was feeling suddenly giddy and alive. She didn't feel compelled to keep her head down from fear the way she had for so long.

The door jangled again and a new gust of wind brought in Buffy. Her blond hair was blowing out of its hairpins, and she hugged a leather book bag to her chest. She strode quickly to the booth and slipped in beside Willow, letting her breath out in a gasp and yanking her gloves off. She glanced from Xander to Willow and back again. "What?" she asked. "Did you two just get engaged or something? What's with the hands?" Willow hadn't yet let go of Xander's.

"I- I think they're kind of frozen," Willow pondered, trying unsuccessfully to move them.

"Yeah, and it's no wonder. You lost the gloves I gave you!" Xander said in mock slight. "You know, I clocked a lot of hours for the Gestapo just to get those for you." He turned to Buffy, who was trying to tuck the stray strands of gold hair behind her ears. "And what about you?" he bleated at her. "Where's your hat?"

Buffy glanced around uncomfortably. "Uh. At school?"

Xander leaned back and surveyed the two women before him, shaking his head. "And to think that the future of civilization could rest on the shoulders of you two."

Buffy gave him a tepid smile.

"Oh, and speaking of futures, Will here now has one," Xander beamed broadly.

Buffy shot a glance at Willow and slapped the girl's shoulder. "Tell me you are not marrying Xander."

Willow rolled her eyes. "I am not marrying Xander."

"In fact, our little Willow is Willow no more," Xander grinned.

Buffy turned and scowled. "Then who are you?"

Willow scowled thoughtfully as well. "You know, I was just asking myself the exact same thing..."

Xander rifled inside his heavy overcoat for something, finally pulling out a slim passbook. He glanced inside. "She's now, uh, Wilma Hermann." He nodded, pleased with himself.

Willow took offense. "Wilma? You couldn't come up with a better name than that? Something more romantic or all movie starry. Like, like Marlene or Greta or, or..."

Buffy patted her friend's arm. "Down, girl. Wilma's fine. We can still call you Will. Ma. Wil-ma," she snorted while Willow looked unhappy.

"Sounds like I should be scrubbing floors. Or married to a caveman. Or both."

Xander took Willow's hand once more. His eyes were wide and sincere. "No, Will. It's perfect." The table and the pie and the three forks gazed back at him, surreally. He met Willow's gaze for emphasis. "We don't have to worry as much anymore." And within that simple statement, the three of them understood the depth of things it represented: They didn't need to fear that one day Willow just wouldn't show up because she'd been found out and arrested or shot or worse. Being a Jew in the hate- and fear-stained streets of 1943 Berlin was treacherous at best. And out of defiance, Willow had chosen not to be cowed by it. She was small. She had endured 22 years being an unremarkable wallflower--a girl other people just didn't notice. But as the numbers of Jews in Berlin dwindled, and the government's promotion of hatred and violence ever escalated, and a frustrated people needed a scapegoat, the three of them knew it was just a matter of time before someone asked to see Willow's papers. When that day came, she needed to have some. Xander had, indeed, at great risk to himself, just secured Willow a future.

Willow thought her heart would melt with gratitude. "I love you," she whispered, squeezing his hand. Her fingers were finally warm.



##



Xander was walking home along the darkened streets of Berlin when the Air Raid sirens sounded. They bayed a woeful and familiar song that filled his chest with dread. He glanced around in confusion, trying to decide where to go. His home was many blocks away, and already he could hear the rumble of planes overhead. Other people- some individuals, some couples--were dashing quickly, running up steps into unfamiliar buildings. "Basement" was the only word his brain could conjure right now. His legs only obeyed the command to run. As fast as his legs could carry him, he followed a middle-aged man and woman as their shoes clicked up stone steps into a large apartment building. He turned as the heavy double doors were closing to see a huge flash of red illuminate the night sky some distance away. The crimson clung there, a luminous red stain across the horizon that flickered but did not fade. His mind flashed to Buffy and Willow, wondering where they were and if they were safe--frightened at the realization that there had been and would be many more moments when the three of them would be separated by what seemed to be the brutish and careless clashing of titans.

At the whistle of an airborne missile from above, he dove inside, and the doors clacked shut with a firmness that somehow didn't seem anywhere near firm enough. He followed the sounds of footsteps on stairs in a darkened hallway and found himself in a herd of apartment occupants moving as civilly as possible, considering the circumstances, down to the basement. He slipped into their crush and let himself be carried along.



##



Buffy and Willow had a similar jolt as the sirens came up. They had parted company with Xander not long ago and were headed in the opposite direction toward the flat Buffy shared with her mother and younger sister. They had been walking arm in arm, sharing their warmth and excitement. Willow's mind was moving at lightspeed calculating all of the things she'd dreamed of doing. "I could enroll at university--nobody there knows me. I could get a job. Who knows. I could even start up a business!" Her excitement was infectious, but Buffy couldn't help noticing a shopfront with windows hand-painted top to bottom with the curse, "JUDE,"--the lame work of some average Joe proclaiming his hatred and superiority over his neighbors. It was a mark of menace and intimidation. Buffy could tell by the board over the door that that particularly homespun sentiment of boycott had been effective: the place was dead inside. Willow passed the window without a glance. She was deep in dreamland, her cheeks a bright pink and her eyes glittering. Buffy pulled the girl closer and held on tight.

That's when the siren went off, shocking them to a complete standstill. In between its wails, Buffy focused her listening. "Planes," she said simply, tugging at Willow's arm. "Come on, Wilma. Time to hit the dirt."

Willow calmly followed her friend down the street, floating thoughts out behind her like puffs of warm breath into the night air. "See, that's just so interesting. Where did that expression come from, anyway? I could see if we were dodging sniper fire, then being low to the ground—like completely horizontal--would be very useful. But I think if we took a moment and stretched out here we'd probably just create more surface area, you know, for catching falling bricks."

“I knew there was a reason I have you do my physics homework,” Buffy said.

As if on cue, a light flashed in the sky, searing the surroundings with a thick clap that was followed by the crumble and tumble of stones from the building across the street as one shoulder of the gothic structure was torn to rubble. Over the din of the explosion and the Air Raid siren, the girls could hear more than one voice in pain and frightened weeping.

They coughed on the dust and then sprinted away, hacking grime from their lungs as they ran side-by-side toward the broad stone steps of the opera house. The lights there were just being turned down as they stumbled up the steps, gasping. An attendant was pushing the doors closed. "Please," Buffy cried. Only one thought was in her mind: staying alive for her mother and sister. Her outstretched hand caught the door mid-swing. The attendant eyed her expressionlessly and then allowed them in. As they negotiated a crowded and dark corridor down to the basement, Willow noted that she and Buffy were decidedly underdressed among the frightened opera-goers, who seemed to include a rather healthy contingent of SS men, attractive and well-heeled ladies decorating their arms like fine ornaments.

The basement was dark. Later, Willow and Buffy would not be able to remember a single physical detail of it, except they were crouched in what seemed like a long stone archway or tunnel, pressed in close with the opera-goers, every one of them just as scared as they were. Here, in this moment, class and ethnicity and politics didn't matter. They were all Germans under attack. The weight of the whole opera house sat above them, immovable and proud --just waiting to be toppled.



##



The sounds coming from the sky were terrifying. In the darkness, Xander felt a slim hand slip into his own, a woman's hand. As a bomb hit freakishly close by, he gave the hand a squeeze, and fought down his own trembling to look up into the face of a young woman, maybe a little older than he was. Long blond hair pulled back and haunted blue eyes, mouth slack and scared. She was the perfect picture of the government's Aryan ideal: blond, blue-eyed, broad-shouldered. The perfect vessel for the next generation of The Fuhrer’s genetically purified master race. Which was another way of saying the girl was pretty. She merely blinked back at him, thankfully oblivious to his thoughts.

Another bomb hit closer this time, and Xander found himself clutching the girl to him--whether as comforter or comforted he did not know. Was that him shaking or her? Or both? Or was it maybe the ground? What a strange moment for multiple-choice reflections. They clutched each other in a manner that would have been impossible and unseemly were it not for the circumstances. Wartime makes for strange bedfellows, indeed. Of course, that was only an expression. He didn’t mean that in a literal bed kind of way.

They crouched in the basement like that, holding each other tight, for what must have been a solid hour, until at last the sounds of planes and explosions had died away and one-by-one the apartment-dwellers began to rouse themselves. Families began to stand and shake out their stiff limbs, letting out the breath they'd been holding. Xander continued to hold the girl close, looking around for her family, but it seemed she was alone. Finally, he rose to his feet, pulling her with him. They were still locked in embrace. Noticing it, Xander coughed uncomfortably and disengaged, patting her arm and doing his best to look like a man should, all chivalrous and such.

"I'm not very brave," he said with a small chuckle, mentally kicking himself that this stupid statement was the first thing he said to a very pretty girl. And she was pretty in a creamy and voluptuous way. He revised his earlier assessment. "Broad-shouldered" didn't cut it: She was womanly.

The trembling in his hands was back, and he willed himself to take a deep breath and start over. But if the girl caught his fright, she didn't seem to care. She turned to him with eyes that could melt butter. She quirked a half-smile. "Personally, I never want to come down here again, either," she said in a wavering voice. And then she looked up at the ceiling. "I wonder if my apartment's ok?" she mused aloud.

Xander gentlemanly touched her elbow. "If it would make you feel safer, I'd be happy to walk you up."

The girl looked him over and noticed the collar of his uniform under his heavy black overcoat. Xander realized yet again that while his desk job at SS headquarters scared the shit out of him, it was going to instill confidence in someone else. The girl obviously took him for a soldier—and official--and therefore, perhaps, a sworn protector. And, yes, therefore safe.

"Ok," she said softly, but not softly in a flirtatious way. Just "ok" in the kind-of-shell-shocked-and-not-entirely-sure-if-things-were-ok-kind-of-way.

"Xander Harris," he said, by way of simple introduction.

"Tara Maclay," the girl replied in kind.



##



Dr. Thomas Ehrlich had a prosperous medical practice in Berlin. He was well-respected, accepted in high circles and occasionally had the opportunity to advise the government on medical matters. Especially now that Eugenics was the scientific flavor of the moment. It pained him on some level to testify before the government that Jews and Gypsies were genetically inferior, though clearly there was benefit in dissuading people with certain disabilities from having children. He held firm the belief that a strong state needed a strong and hardy people. It was good for nationalism, and a strong nation was what Germany needed to be. Yet somewhere in his heart there was still a spot of warmth and affection for the way things used to be. And now as he gazed across the darkened basement of the opera-house, his occupation made it impossible for him not to scan the faces of the people hiding there. He saw the fear, the grimaces as each bomb found its mark somewhere across the city. A faint glow of red filtered in through the high windows.

He noticed an attractive woman across the chamber from him. She'd apparently lost her hat somewhere, so it was the glint of her blond hair that first drew his eye, that and her youth and beauty. He had a son about her age. The woman leaned to a girl beside her and spoke softly in her ear. Dr. Ehrlich's attention shifted slightly to the redhead. He pondered them a moment more, until another bomb fell--this one much closer than before and sent a collective groan through the opera-goers. He shut his eyes tight and thought about his son, until sometime later he realized it had grown dark outside and the world had quieted. It was the stirring of the two young women that pulled him out of his reverie. They were the first to climb to their feet, and he could hear their whispered voices. They were eager to leave.

He stood, brushed off his hat, and stepped toward them.

"Miss Rosenberg?" he greeted the redhead. The fear in her eyes told him he was right.



##



Xander stood nervously in the darkened parlour of Tara's apartment, regarding the architecture because it was uncustomary for a young man to escort a lady he'd only just met alone to her dark apartment in the middle of the night, in the dark. Yes, darkness. It was all around. The air raid sirens had stopped long ago, so the blackout was lifted, but the power must have gone out. He stood, mindlessly flipping the hall light switch on-off, on-off in darkness, waiting for the girl to reappear.

When she did, she brought light.

"I h-had a few candles in the kitchen," she said, cupping her hand around a flame. The fire glow illuminated the body of the white candle and sent shadows dancing around the room. It was large, high ceiling, broad, dark woodwork and a bank of tall casement windows.

"So, is everything ok?" Xander asked with a shrug. His hands were stuffed nervously in the deep pockets of his overcoat.

Tara nodded. "Oh, yes. Some dust in the kitchen." She glanced around the parlour. "And some things knocked off the walls...nothing major to worry about." She went to the wall, taking the candle with her and retrieved a broken picture frame from the floor. Xander followed the light, stooping to help retrieve another fallen frame close by. He held up a stiff photograph portrait of a family--all blue-eyed and blond. Tara and a man in uniform and three small blond children. A blush crept across his cheeks. Of course. Someone as lovely as Tara would be married.

"Where’s your husband?" he asked in what he hoped was an offhanded conversational tone. Tara shot him a funny look. "I- I don't have a husband."

Oh, right. It was wartime. Everybody had lost somebody. "I'm sorry," Xander said sincerely, gazing softly upon the family tableau. Tara reached for it and pried the picture from his hands.

"That's my brother," she said. "He's on the eastern Front. The children are his. The photo was taken just before he left for Poland. He hasn't been back in a while."

Xander glanced around the place once more. Even by candlelight he knew the apartment was spacious. Tara's family must be moneyed. "You live here all by yourself?" he asked, a little slack-jawed. The blush that crept across Tara's cheeks told him he was getting a tad too personal, that perhaps she didn't believe he was there for chivalrous reasons, after all. She nodded, though. "Alone," she said simply and then turned toward the door. It was his cue to leave.

Damn, Xander cursed silently. He'd blown it. He followed the dancing candlelight toward the door.



##



Willow stood rooted to the ground as if she'd sprung there from seed. She found herself staring wide-eyed into a face that was familiar. And not in a good way. Buffy stepped up beside her as the bearded gentleman extended his hand to Willow.

"Miss Rosenberg?" he asked. A smile flickered at the corners of his mouth, a mirthless half-twitch. She fought the urge to deny it, and her legs simply would not go.

"Willow, isn't it?" He had her hand in his now. She was as good as captured. With a whistle, any of the uniformed officers here could be summoned. The pieces of paper in her pocket would do her no good after all. Not in the face of Dr. Ehrlich's word against hers. He knew her, and he knew what she was.

His eyes flicked to the breast of her overcoat. He was looking for the Star of David, which of course he wouldn't find there because she refused to wear that humiliating rag. His eyes were reproachful for a moment as he looked her head to toe. He seemed to be contemplating something. Willow could feel fear and anger radiating from Buffy beside her. Bless her heart. Buffy was always itching for a good fight.

Dr. Ehrlich's eyes finally met hers once more. "Your father was a good man." He turned to leave. "You be careful now," he said over his shoulder and then slipped into the column of opera-goers who had collected their things and were making their way back out into the night.

Willow was trembling. Buffy had to bodily shove her, hissing "Out. Now," into Willow's ear. Following a command was easy. Willow fell into step beside her friend and eventually found herself outdoors again. Blood was pounding in her ears.

"Oh, God, Buffy. Do you know who that was? How close that was?" she gasped, nearly doubling over.

Buffy was fairly sure all she really needed to know was written on her friend's face. She patted Willow's back, running soothing circles against the dark wool coat as Willow focused on more rudimentary things, like the sidewalk. And breathing. And not throwing up on Buffy's shoes.

Willow choked out more: "Tha-that was my father's business partner. They had the medical practice together. Until Crystal Nacht. I think he-he had something to do with my parents’ disappearance. I don't know..."

Buffy continued rubbing Willow's back. "You can't know that for sure. And he didn't turn you in just now. Maybe he wasn't involved."

"Maybe he feels guilty," Willow heaved. "He got the business. And I got nothing, except orphaned."

"Bastards will get what they deserve in the end."

"Is your friend injured?" a young man's voice called out to them. Buffy looked up to see a soldier with a flashlight approaching. Buffy shook her head vigorously. "She's fine. Just a little shell-shocked is all."

The soldier nodded, then hesitated. "It's no hour for you girls to be out on the streets alone. You'd better get home."

Buffy detected the faint sound of Willow swearing under her breath. " I don't have a home" as if it were the punchline to an old joke.

Buffy grabbed her by the collar and hauled her upright. "Come on, Wilma. You're coming with me."



##



Willow woke early. She lay flat on her back staring up at the ceiling deep in thought. Buffy was nestled asleep beside her, softly snoring. And on the other side of Buffy lay her younger sister Dawn. It wasn't a big bed, but it was soft and warm with a pretty crocheted coverlet of cream-colored lace. The Summers sisters' mom Joyce was in the kitchen making pancakes. She'd been a great housewife until her husband joined the military and then disappeared two years ago. Now she rose early every morning and made her daughters breakfast before heading off to work at a nearby woolen mill. None of the Summers women ever talked about Mr. Summers any more.

Joyce had met them at the door last night, as she and Buffy tumbled in out of the night. The look of relief she gave Buffy was all mama-bear. She pulled her daughter into a tight embrace, and the two of them stood like that for a long moment.

"I don't like you going out at night," Joyce reproached, clinging to her daughter like she'd never let her go. Her soft brown eyes swept up finally and rested on Willow with a mixture of relief and trepidation. Then Joyce opened her arms and admitted Willow into her embrace, too. Willow buried her face in Joyce's blond hair, breathing in the comforting scents of soap and cooking.

Willow now rose silently and slipped into her clothes from the night before, taking a moment to straighten her skirt and smooth her hair in the mirror. Then she headed for the kitchen.

She'd always liked Joyce and the sight of her in the sunny window made Willow smile. Willow noticed the street scene outside. Mounds of rubble covered the streets, like a snowfall of brick dust had blanketed the city overnight.

"Wow, would you look at that.” Willow mused softly. The world kept seeming to end--and then not really--in so many ways. If fate kept up the barrage of near-apocalypses it would be kind of tough to know when the real one came, right? Or maybe the apocalypse isn't a single, discreet event. Maybe it's a whole tumbling series of things that culminate in a good snuffing. “I put my money on the whole tumbling-culminating-in-a-good-snuffing kind of apocalypse," she said, turning to Joyce. "Oh. I said that last part out loud, didn't I?"

Joyce chuckled good-naturedly. "They say the Eskimos have a hundred different words for snow," she said, offering her own non sequitur and pouring coffee for Willow. The cup was half-full. Rations were low and staples were becoming harder to come by. Willow was thankful for a shot of anything hot. She accepted the cup humbly and leaned up to give Joyce a peck on the cheek.

"Thanks for letting me stay," she said bashfully. "I didn't think I should try to get back to my flat last night." "Flat" was a really loose term for Willow's current housing accommodations. She'd found a room in an old building that would accept money from Jews. The money was paid under the table, and the rent was a bit steep, considering how many people she shared the one room with, but as winter approached her options had been few. A friend of Buffy's from the university had helped Willow find the place. Waking up in Buffy's house reminded Willow of the comforts of home from before the war.

Joyce sat at the small kitchen table across from Willow. "Buffy told me last night you might be able to find work?" Joyce had always thought it a tremendous shame Willow couldn't attend university. The girl had a sharp mind and a tenacious work ethic. Willow's look was guarded a moment, and then she softened. "Uh, yeah. I have a bit of a new lease on life, it would seem, anyway."

"What do you intend to do?"

Willow knew exactly what she intended to do. She'd had her mind made up even before she and Xander had discussed forging her papers. "I'm going down to the newspaper office today," she replied.

"To place an ad?" Joyce asked, assuming the girl meant to hire herself out as a domestic or something like that.

"Uh, no. I'm going to ask for a job working there."

Joyce was certain her face froze. Willow's ambition was to work for a Nazi newspaper?

"It's sort of a sheep in wolves’ clothing kind of thing," Willow explained, a bit distressed at Joyce's reaction. It seemed so obvious to her what she needed to do: The only way to ensure nobody asked to see her papers was to never put herself in a position of being asked for them.

"Well, I suppose you and Xander can stop for cocktails at the Officers Club after hours, then," Joyce shook her head.

Willow smiled tentatively. "Well, yeah. If he earns some stripes."



##



Xander stared at a dossier on his desk, absently picking at the rubber band that held its contents together. There were a lot more like this one stacked up in the oak in-box on his desk. But for the past half hour it seemed all he could do was stare at this one. And swallow down a squishy stew of guilt and dread. It had seemed a simple enough thing yesterday, swiping the documents he needed for Willow and in a few minutes and with the aid of a typewriter concocting a new identity for her. At the time, he'd been sweating profusely, listening for any sound of voices or footsteps approaching. His hands had shaken at the typewriter, and he’d had to do it twice, but finally he'd gotten it right. He’d stuffed the documents deep into the inside pocket of his overcoat and then grabbed his hat to go.

Now, this morning, there was a small matter of this troubling file. It kept staring at him. It was a certain file marked Wilma Hermann. As in the real Wilma Hermann, the dead woman whose identity he had borrowed for his childhood chum. To finish the job, he needed to go in and change certain documents to match the characteristics of his very real and very alive Willow. And every keystroke he made at the typewriter, each document he shredded and replaced would implicate him further in this fraud. In the end he'd need to sign it himself and refile it. He'd intended to do the work tonight, just before leaving for his regular rendezvous with his friends at the diner. But then, when he'd arrived at work this morning, the file had been sitting right here in the middle of the desk. He was sure he'd filed it last night before he left. And now there it was sitting here. How could it be sitting there, with its rubbery rubber band and its bland manila face and the name of that dead woman typed neatly across the tab?

His eyes had shifted nervously to the other clerks and officers who strode through the office, expecting to catch the eye of the person who'd left this on his desk. Unless it was some gross and stupid oversight on his part, and of that he could not be certain, though it was likely. His paranoia told him someone was messing with him. It wasn't exactly unheard of for government employees to abuse their access to information on behalf of a friend or loved one. He shuddered at the thought of what they might do to him.

He was torn between the impulse to shove the whole file in his book bag...to shred the whole thing...or to just shove it back in the alphabetical hanging stacks. Someone was messing with him. Did he dare alter a word? And if he didn't and Will got caught, she'd be a dead woman. He dropped his head in his hands and tried to pull himself together.

It was a few moments before he noticed the shiny brown shoes just a few feet in front of his desk. He slowly lifted his gaze to find an older, distinguished looking man in gazing back at him, his expression half-amused.

"Not feeling well, comrade?" the man asked.

"It was a long night," Xander smiled back, rubbing his eyes.

"Ah, yes. The joys and hazards of romance," the man said, and they both chuckled at the absurdity of it, since every resident of the city had certainly spent most of the night a huddled mess in a basement somewhere.

"Believe me, I wish my skill with the ladies were enough to make a woman overlook the fact that the city was falling down, but, ah, I am not possessed of such skills. Or of such a lady." He shook his head at his own pathetic-ness. And then set his files aside so he could attend to the fine citizen here who was probably wanting to rat out his neighbors over something. Which was even more pathetic.



##




The newspaper office was not far from Willow's flat. She decided to take a short detour there on her way to get a fresh shirt. This part of town had sustained some heavy damage. City workers were helping clear away rubble to allow traffic through. She picked her way carefully along the sidewalk, her scarf tied tight against the wind. She was halfway down the block with the door to her building in sight when she stopped short. Something wasn't right. She spotted a cluster of police and a van at the corner. As she watched, an officer led one of her flat-mates forcibly by the arm down the front steps and into the back of the van. The man had no shoes or coat on. He looked bewildered and broken. Another soldier followed with the man's wife in tow. She was crying.

Willow stood still, scarcely breathing, as if she could will herself invisible. Her impulse told her to run, but that would be bad. They'd spot her and chase her down. So she stood rooted and watched people she'd become friends with out of a strange brand of happenstance disappear into a truck with no hope of saying good-bye, or see you again sometime, or be right back.

A hand gripped her shoulder. She spun around and into the face of a friend--a friend who looked scared and grim, but somehow reassuring nonetheless. "This way," the woman whispered pulling Willow into the slim alleyway between buildings, into the shadows.

"Jenny?" Willow said, clutching the woman's arms tightly, wanting to be sure she was real. "What's happening?"

"I was just coming home, too. They're cleaning the place out. We've got to find a new place to stay." The woman's dark eyes flashed anger and determination.

Willow felt tears well up and begin to fall. "No! Not Mr. and Mrs. Schneiderman. And, and George...and, and..."

"We can't help them," Jenny hissed, a bit more harshly than she intended, but her nerves were on end, too. "We have to get out of here."

"But what about our stuff?" Willow knew the words were stupid even as she spoke them, but considering most of her worldly possessions these days fit in a large suitcase she was loathe to be reduced to just the clothes on her back. She knew for Jenny it was the same. Everything Jenny had was in the flat, too, and Jenny didn't seem to think Willow was being shallow.

"I know. I hate this. We'll have to come back later tonight and see what's left," she hissed. "Fuck Hitler."

That earned Jenny a chuckle. Willow had always liked her. Her people were Romani--Gypsies--and therefore on the Nazi's shit-list just as much as the Jews. Jenny had been one of Willow's teachers years ago before the seeds of hatred had started spreading and neighbors turned against neighbors. Willow had been humiliated, withstanding taunts at school, which she'd put up with as long as she could bear because she loved learning. But Jenny had been dismissed five years ago after Crystal Nacht and then her family members started disappearing one by one. Now it was just Jenny living in a small apartment with a bunch of strangers.

Willow leaned in and gave her friend a reassuring hug. "You still have me."

Jenny squeezed her back. "How many lives does that make for you now?"

"I don't know," Willow pondered. "Maybe seven? I've got at least another two. I might even have more. What's so magic about the number nine, anyway?"

"Nine is the way it works for cats. Probably doesn't apply to people," Jenny surmised.

Willow held the embrace a moment longer. "How many for you, then?"

Jenny's voice was dark. "I'm pretty sure I'm on number nine."



##



Tara sat quietly waiting for her lunch companion to arrive. She took a long sip of water from the goblet at her place setting. Last night the bombs were raining down. Out in the streets there was a chaos of stone and brick and random bits of furniture, the myriad errata of people's everyday lives blown out of their homes and dispersed across the streets for all the world to see. It was a terrible enough sight made even more terrible by the fact that here she was in a fine restaurant, at a table decked in linen tablecloth, waiters moving briskly about the place as if nothing had happened. The war didn't reach inside fine restaurants, apparently.

Oh, wait. It did. Tara looked up to see her companion walking toward her. He was dashing in his officer's uniform. She stood as he approached and he gave her a warm hug before they both took their seats.

"I'm glad you're all right," Riley said, leaning across the table, obviously relieved. "You stayed in the basement?"

Tara nodded, thinking momentarily of the kindness of the stranger named Xander who'd made sure she made it back to her apartment ok.

"I'm sorry you had to go through that," he said, and she almost wanted to laugh at the naked self-importance of his comment. As if he or the army or whatever powers that be had merely made a clerical error, as if that’s what caused enemy planes to bomb the city. It also struck her as somehow an absurd understatement considering the destruction of people's lives visible for all to see. Tara had been lucky. She'd been inconvenienced and, at worst, scared. In Riley's world it was about looking beyond the details to focus on the big picture. Where Tara saw stones ad rubble, he saw nothing.

She decided to meet him conversationally on his level. "The allies think they've struck a blow, but they have no idea how adversity strengthens Germany's resolve," she said in her best “party line” voice, trying to hide an amused smile.

"Exactly!" Riley grinned, as if she were the first person who seemed to get it. As if she had just given him the perfect excuse not to feel guilty and heartbroken over not being able to better protect his countrymen. "We won't let them get away with it. Even now, we have machinery in motion. I can't tell you more, but you have to trust me: We're going to make very short work of those bastards--pardon my language. It's just that I feel very passionate about this, and I'm not the only one who does."

Tara took another sip of water and regarded him somewhat objectively. He was a good man, beautiful, honest and sincere. But it was interesting how often he expressed more passion for his work than for her. There was affection, certainly. And love, but in a blunted sort of way. The vulnerable parts of him secreted away in an emotional bomb shelter.

Maybe that was the way of many soldiers--or perhaps the officers anyway. In times like these everyone did what they could to get by. And if getting by meant that Tara spent a few lunchtimes or evenings being Riley's tether to normal life, so be it. There was so little in her life right now that she was eager to do almost anything to get outside of it. Funny how the domesticity that smothered her was exactly the kind of comfort Riley craved. In return, he gave her some financial support (though she didn't need much), and he gave her some sort of promise for the future. Though they didn't speak of it, there was a tacit understanding between them that when the war was over they'd marry.

"There's a gathering at the Officers Club this Friday evening," he was saying. "I'm wondering if you'd like to go with me?"

Tara smiled. "Anything I can do to help support the war effort and improve the morale of the brave men who are securing a safe and prosperous future for us I feel it is my duty--no, my honor, to do. I am at your complete disposal."

That almost got a giggle out of him.



##



"Am I lucky? What is luck, anyway? Is it fair to call it luck that I didn't get arrested but my friends did? And in the sense of this morning's raid, what exactly does 'arrested' mean? The Nazis have a sanitized term for everything. They euphemize everything--especially the Jews. My friends just got hauled away to be euphemized. You gotta give them credit for their love of language."

Willow sat quietly in a stiff wooden chair waiting for an opportunity to meet with Mr. Gruber, the editor of The People's Press, a euphemism if ever there was one.

Gruber's secretary had seemed a bit skeptical when she'd walked in without an appointment, but Willow had given her a resume and writing samples to pass along to him for perusal. She was hoping that once again her intelligence and attention to detail would make an impression. Now she'd been sitting for nearly an hour as patiently as if she had just sat down. She had nowhere else to be until she met with Xander and Buffy at the café for their daily "Hey-we're-all-still-here" pie and coffee check-in. She and Jenny had talked about going back to the flat to see what they could salvage of their things, but Willow was quickly giving up on that idea. If Jenny had already used up her nine lives there was no reason risking her last for a handful of things. Maybe if she asked, Buffy or Xander might be able to go by and look on behalf of the both of them. The neighbors and authorities would regard them as Good Germans merely redistributing wealth, whereas Willow and Jenny would be considered the vermin that pest control had missed.

The office door swung open and a tall, silver-haired man in a suit called out, "Miss Hermann?"

It took Willow a moment to realize she was being addressed. She put on her best Wilma face and stepped into his office.

Another lifetime ago Willow had been a terrible liar. There would have been no way she could have made a bald-faced lie to somebody without fidgeting or betraying her guilt in some way. As Wilma responded to Mr. Gruber's questions, Willow felt herself detach completely as if watching the proceedings from somewhere up above. Damn. Wilma was good.

"So why is it, Miss Hermann, that you list no address on your resume?" he was asking.

"I'm afraid my housing situation is at present a bit up in the air," Wilma replied. "In fact, it was pretty much blown up into the air last night."

"You have other prospects for lodging?" he asked. She nodded her head vigorously. "Oh, yes. I have friends in the area. I just need to make arrangements. It's all been a bit sudden is all."

"Why is it you wish to work here? The hours are long and sometimes a bit irregular. If a big story breaks, we don't leave until it's finished. Whatever it takes."

It was Willow--not Wilma--who looked him clearly in the eye and answered him. "Sir, I'm here because I want nothing more than for this war to end. I think I'm relatively safe in saying that after last night, most any German you talked to would say as much. There’s too much suffering. We've all suffered. And the sooner we can be done with the suffering and moving on to the building and rebuilding the better. I guess you could say I'm a bit impatient. And that I'm an optimist. I can think of no better place I could apply myself than by working for this newspaper, sir. I need to do something."

"And the hours?"

"I'm not married, and I don't have children, so my time is my own."

"Your writing samples are very good. But I'm not sure you're the right man for the job," he said, a bit amused with his own humor.

"I'm an excellent writer," Willow said, letting his remark pass. "I'm also extremely resourceful."

"And loyal?"

This being a Nazi rag, she knew what he was driving at. But she answered in her own way: "I love all that is good and pure about my homeland. I would die to defend it." Interesting images flashed in her mind as she spoke the words.

Gruber let out a satisfied sigh. He was done grilling. He turned in his chair toward her and extended his hand in congratulations. "You'll be our new copy editor. You can start immediately."

The grin that spread across Willow's face could not be contained. She had a new name and now a new job that would provide income. Soon, she’d be in a position to actually support herself.



##



The dark hallway echoed with the sounds of footsteps in the stairwell far below. Xander was on the fifth floor, staring at the door before him. He collected his thoughts a moment, cleared his throat and then knocked.

The faint sound of footsteps reverberated through the door. A moment later, it swung open to reveal the lovely woman whose hand he’d held the other night. She looked surprised to see him.

“Xa-Xander?”

Already, he loved the adorableness of her nervous stutter. And it was kind of nice to know someone like Tara found him stutter-worthy.

He began to release the words he’d rehearsed on the bus all the way over here. “I was in the neighborhood. Thought I’d stop by and see how you were doing. You know, getting over the big scare the other night. I wanted to be sure everything was all right.”

Tara smiled and opened the door wider, inviting him in. “Tha-that’s very kind of you. I-it w-was definitely hard to fall asleep. I k-kept dreaming of bombs and airplanes.”

“I imagine Dr. Freud might have a thing or two to say about that. But not me. Sounds perfectly normal to me. I was never into his whole dream thing. Or that thing about cigars. Not that I’ve spent time reading his work, much.” He felt his cheeks burning. Must get rid of these mind pictures of explosions and cigars, and Tara. But Tara just smiled pleasantly back at him as if waiting for a small child to complete his first sentence. Xander swallowed, hoping he was at the end of it.

Oddly, he was relieved to be saved by the sounds of a second person in her apartment. Tara turned and flashed a smile in the direction of the sounds. Xander took her momentary distraction as an opportunity to pinch himself. Hard.

“Who is that, sweetheart?” came a man’s voice.

Sweetheart: a term of endearment usually reserved for two people who are close to signify a special bond between them. Xander heard Willow’s voice in his head as he thought this. He looked at his shoes. One could call friends sweetheart. In fact, he and Willow and Buffy happened to use language like that a lot, and they were friends. Also, parents use that endearment when talking with their children. Or at least most parents do. The ones who love their children, as opposed to his own no-account boozer parents. But, no, the person who uttered the endearment didn’t sound parental enough.

He looked up to see a tall, sturdy fellow in an officer’s uniform standing beside Tara, laying a meaty hand upon her shoulder. He didn’t look like the brother from the photograph he saw the other time he was here. He appeared to be an affable enough guy, handsome and smiling. Xander hated him instantly.

“This is Captain Riley Finn,” Tara said by way of introduction. “Riley, this is Xander Harris, the fellow from the SS who stayed with m-me in the ba-basement d-during the air raid and made sure everything was safe upstairs here.”

Handsome Captain Finn extended his meaty hand in greeting. “Nice to meet you. And thank you for helping keep Tara safe. I don’t like her being here alone so much. I’m glad you were there.”

Xander imagined that if Tara were his girlfriend she wouldn’t “be here alone so much.” He smiled cordially and shook the man’s hand.

Tara invited him in for tea. He would have declined, but he’d just ridden across town on the bus, and as long as he was here he might as well at least warm himself before heading back out into the winter afternoon. Later, as he strolled along the street below, headed back to his own little world, he had a slip of paper in his pocket from Riley, inviting him to an Officers Club event on Friday. “Great,” he thought. He had come here wanting to get to know a pretty girl and maybe ask her out. And instead the girl’s boyfriend asked him out.



##



"So, professor, I have a question about the reading..."

Buffy had waited patiently until there were no students left to approach Giles. She knew that it was best if her classmates didn't see her receiving any special attention from the professor. You didn't have to be a member of the Hitler Youth to know that the Brit hadn't been run out of town yet because he kept his head down.

But this was a moment where she needed to check in with him--and quickly. She'd seen Willow's flat-mate Jenny stop by the door during class to tell Giles something--something that had clearly bothered him. She knew it had to be bad if Jenny had shown up at university. The only thing worse that being British (and therefore of questionable allegiances, given the Allies situation) was being a Gypsy. And worse than that, Jenny used to be a teacher here, too, and some of the students were sure to have recognized her.

Giles turned to her and let out an exasperated breath. "So stupid. She should know better than to waltz in here no matter how bad the news."

Buffy frowned. "So there's bad news? How bad's the bad news?"

"Well 'bad' is a rather relative term these days one might suppose."

"Ok, then, on a we-live-on-a-hellmouth scale, how bad is bad?"

Giles laughed at that. "We live on a hellmouth. That's good. I'll have to remember that one."

"I may have to hurt you if you don't tell me what's going on. Why was Jenny here?" As she said the last part she heard the fear in her own voice.

Giles sobered and looked out the classroom window. "It would appear that the police raided Jenny's apartment this morning and rounded up all of the occupants and took them God knows where."

"Willow?" Buffy’s heart leapt.

"She and Jenny weren't home at the time. They arrived on the scene, as it were, and discovered the kidnappings in progress." They both knew the official version of the story--the government account would be that the people had been picked up for questioning. But then few if any ever returned from questioning.

"So will she stay with you? Jenny, I mean?"

"I live in a bachelor apartment. I'm a British citizen. And Jenny is a Gypsy. I can't really think of anything else that would draw negative attention to ourselves than if we took up cannibalism. Which during food rationing I suppose is not outside the realm of possibility."

"When you live on a hellmouth."

"I can't tell you how frustrating this is. To be absolutely powerless to help her--or even myself for that matter."

Buffy hesitated, not sure if she should say the next. "I'm going to find a way to get you both out of Germany," she said with a determination that made Giles regard her warily.

"Buffy, I appreciate your concern, really I do, but I'm not sure there's anything you could do. And even if there were I wouldn't want you to endanger yourself on my behalf."

She cut him off. "I'm only going to say this once: This is what I do. I help people. I'm--I'm a helper. I help." There had to be a better word for it, but there was safety in obliqueness.



##



"So. You got a job today," Xander was repeating. "And you got, uh, evicted."

"Yep, in a nutshell. Although I prefer to think of myself as now 'thoroughly repurposed,'" Willow said. "It's better than ‘thoroughly screwed.’"

"And you're working for The People's Megaphone?"

"More like The People's Mega-phoney, but, yes. I'm all with the keeping-the-enemies close. Keeping tabs on where the swastika's been. Being first in the know could be handy...you know?"

There was something pained in Xander's expression that she hadn't expected to see. "What is it? I thought you'd be happy, well, at least about the first part--the me-getting-a-job part."

"I think we're taking too many risks here. I'm worried is all."

"You think I'm taking too many risks. Is that it?"

"Not just you. Me. Buffy. Jenny. Professor Giles. It's turning into something different."

Buffy chimed in, releasing her death grip on the warm coffee mug. "Everything's changing because instead of getting papers for people we don't know, it's becoming personal."

Xander elaborated: "We're all on the line in a way we haven't been before. We're connected through a paper trail. If one of us falls, we all fall."

"Are you saying you regret it? That you regret helping me?"

"It has nothing to do with that. I love you. I'd do anything for you. But this is now like a chess game. Any move one of us makes--one little bit of carelessness--and it comes back around to all of us. If Jenny gets picked up it gets traced back to Buffy. You're staying with Buffy and you used to live with Jenny, so they blow your cover, too. Buffy's mom's in the clink and the guys at my office notice that a certain Alexander Harris signed the documents in the Wilma Hermann file.”

"I didn't know you play chess. Had you pegged for a checkers kind of guy," Buffy quipped.

“I’m relationship guy. I see the relationships here,” Xander said.

Buffy practically dismissed Xander’s worry, slipping instead into fix-it mode: "We were all always on the line in exactly the same way we always were. Only now we have more power. Willow, you focus on being the best Nazi newspaper copy editor you can be. Xander, you’re going to be the exemplary SS headquarters clerk--maybe even go for promotion. And I am going to continue to be a straight-A university student.”

Willow arched an eyebrow skeptically at that last part.

"Ok, That might draw a too much attention. I'll shoot for more middle-of-the-road university student."

That earned a smile.

Buffy clicked into high gear. "Look, there's a Big Bad out there and we can't even see it. It could be anyone. It could be everyone. We can't trust that anybody is what they seem. And we're going to fight it the only way we know how: By walking among them, in plain sight, and choosing to live and not hide. I think this thing smells fear. We need to step back and study it. Know its moves. And then if we’re lucky we can stay safe and maybe do some real good in this fucked up place."

"So, we have to stick together," Xander said, as much confirmation that he understood Buffy as an affirmation of their bond.

Willow shook her head. "No. To blend in and walk among them, we may need to split up. I can't stay with Buffy and put Dawn and your mom in any kind of danger. I could never live with it if something happened."

Xander to Willow: "If you're going to do that we need to get you some more Nazi friends. We need to acclimate you more into the Nazi scene. Come to the Officers Club with me on Friday. I have some friends who’re getting me a pass to get in."

"Are you asking me out on a date?"

Xander blushed. "Well, actually, there's a girl who's going to be there..."

"A Good Nazi?"

"Kind of a poster child. I think she'd make The Fuhrer proud."

Willow smacked him in the head, though not too hard. "Fine."






more to come in Part 2


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 Post subject: Re: Night of Broken Glass --New Fic
PostPosted: Sat Sep 22, 2007 1:37 am 
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You seemed to have captured the essence of that era. I'm not a expert either but history always interested me. I have read about WW11 and here it is in a W/T story. A story in which I'm massively impressed by and am looking forward to the future installments as you unfold them. Xander in the SS? Indeed.

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 Post subject: Re: Night of Broken Glass --New Fic
PostPosted: Sat Sep 22, 2007 3:19 am 
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Hello

It is a very interesting start. I am not an expert, but it seems to me like you got it right.

I am very curious about what will come next. :)

Julia

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 Post subject: Re: Night of Broken Glass --New Fic
PostPosted: Sat Sep 22, 2007 4:42 am 
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Hi there,
This is a great first chapter to what promises to be an engaging story. You have a great, easy to read writing style and the story is well written and rich with detail.

I have to admit that I'm a huge WWII buff so I was thrilled to see the appearence of a Willow/Tara fic set in 1943...and in Berlin no less! I can't say what you've got in store for us but I sense things might get a little rough for our girls in this fic, I admire you for tackling this turbulent setting and I don't want to speculate as to where you're going to take it but even while I was reading just this first chapter I still felt the palpable tension and death that stalks Willow's every footstep in this time period. She's a Jew in Berlin in 1943, when the Nazis have a whole decade of murder behind them, it's scary and I'm already scared for Willow and anyone that's helping her!

I hope you don't mind if I make a few comments re historical accuracy? During her job interview Willow expresses her desire for the war to be over, if this is indeed a 'Nazi rag' as you note, Willow would be very foolish indeed to make such a statement. Non-Jews were executed for expressing such sentiments as it was a fact that Germany would win the war.

Quote:
His eyes flicked to the breast of her overcoat. He was looking for the Star of David, which of course he wouldn't find there because she refused to wear that humiliating rag.


Just in response to this image, if Willow were using a false identity then she wouldnt be wearing the star whether she refused to wear it or not, to wear it in Berlin in 1943 = deportation.

I love that you've done your research with this fic, it's so time-consuming to write in an historical setting but so worthwhile when you can pull it together as you have. Thanks for all the effort you've put in (and more to come I suspect!) You've done really well in conveying the period, and I am definitely looking forward to the next chapter. Thanks for posting your story and I hope you enjoying being a part of the writing community here!

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 Post subject: Re: Night of Broken Glass --New Fic
PostPosted: Sat Sep 22, 2007 8:49 am 
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Hello!

I just wanted to say that I'm totally hooked up with your story... This is a really interesting start! And your choice of the historical setting is also very interesting, I had'nt noticed before how well the girls can fit in this context, Willow being Jewish and Tara being the "Aryan type".

It is true that it must be difficult to write something about this particular period, but I have to say that the atmosphere in your fic is the same one that I found in many books I read about the WWII, so that must mean that your research has been successful! (Or that you should be published! ;-) )

I liked too how you characterised the Scooby Gang, their relationship is so natural! I particularly liked this:

Quote:
"Wilma? You couldn't come up with a better name than that? Something more romantic or all movie starry. Like, like Marlene or Greta or, or..."

Buffy patted her friend's arm. "Down, girl. Wilma's fine. We can still call you Will. Ma. Wil-ma,"
:-D

And I love when there are many characters of the Buffyverse in a fic, so here with Jenny, Riley, the entire Scooby Gang... :banana
Looking forward to more!

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 Post subject: Re: Night of Broken Glass --New Fic
PostPosted: Sat Sep 22, 2007 10:59 am 
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Thanks, all, for your comments on the story so far. I really appreciate them. Alcy, I love your notes on the historical context. I'll be keeping these in mind for future revisions to the story.

I had a lot to think about in terms of how far to take the historical accuracy thing. I definitely wanted to keep everybody with their "Buffyverse" names and speaking mannerisms. So the Scooby gang talk like Scoobies. It was more fun to write that way.

Junecleavage


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 Post subject: Re: Night of Broken Glass --New Fic
PostPosted: Sat Sep 22, 2007 6:22 pm 
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Good story. I can't wait to read more of it!


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 Post subject: Re: Night of Broken Glass --New Fic
PostPosted: Mon Sep 24, 2007 12:29 am 
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Good story! And yeah, WWII very much like a hellmouth I'm sure. Please keep writing :)

S


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 Post subject: Re: Night of Broken Glass --New Fic
PostPosted: Mon Sep 24, 2007 8:32 am 
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Hi,

it is quite a delicate subject you are writing about. But so long you manage it really well. Your writing skills make it worth reading the story despite the frightening and life-threatening aspects the background brings especially for Willow. The horrible situation she has to live in gets very clear to the reader. But also the chuzpe Willow is accompanied by sometimes. And over all you manage to make the Buffy-characters shining through. They are altered but they are the Scoobies, too.

Never would I dare to claim being an expert but I read a lot about the "III. Reich" and WWII. Unlike a lot of Germans my age I had the privilege of a good history teacher, who gave us a good first impression of some of the reasons all these horrible events could have happened. From school time the interest for this time period never ceased. But there are so many aspects this subject offers, as a layman it is nearly impossible to interpret all the aspects comprehensive.

From what I know I slightly disagree a bit with Alcy. The facts I know are in short terms like this: In February/March 1943 the last remaining Jews were deported from the "Reich", mostly to concentration camps. This is called the "Fabrikaktion" (means something like factory action). The term refers to the fact that the people were arrested at their working places where they were exploited as slave workers. Some succeeded by going into hiding. "U-Boote" or submarines like Willow in your story. One estimates in Berlin 1.500 people survived the Nazi regime like this. But estimated 2.000 people to whom the Nazis referred as Jews stayed in Berlin who where mostly either married to an "aryan" spouse or the child/grandchild of a so called Jew. They stayed and had to do slave work until the end of the war. Most of them didn't have to wear a yellow star but some did. So, Dr. Ehrlich's look on Willow's left breast doesn't seem so wrong to me. What wonders me more, Jews weren't aloud to be at the Opera by this time at all. (But this also wondered me on the film "Aimee & Jaguar" the scene refers to.)

Also I'm not so sure Willow's statement
Quote:
Sir, I'm here because I want nothing more than for this war to end."

would have gotten her in trouble. Doubting the so called "Endsieg" (the final win of the war by Germany) would have ended quite likely by her being arrested and sentenced to death or brought to a concentration camp. But the way she offers to help to end the war for good in the german terms of victory
Quote:
And the sooner we can be done with the suffering and moving on to the building and rebuilding the better. I guess you could say I'm a bit impatient. And that I'm an optimist. I can think of no better place I could apply myself than by working for this newspaper, sir. I need to do something.

doesn't seem to dangerous to me. Not more than her situation in total would have been.

The few problems I have with the story lay on another subject – the names. They are all not sounding german, for instance the short form of Alexander would be Alex or maybe Sascha in Germany, not Xander. Also Buffy and Willow would be highly unusual – as long as they didn't belong to the Swing-kids movement. And Riley? He is supposed to be the loyal german soldier. Rudolf or Robert would have suited him better.

And there is the Aimee & Jaguar antetype. Sure, I loved the book and the film both. But there are a lot of critics who blame the story to not be true in the way it was told. Basically this is because Felice Schragenheim (Jaguar) was deported and murdered in a concentration camp. She never could tell her part of the story. Book and film are based on the memories of Lily Wust (Aimee), the german housewive and bearer of the "Mutterkreuz" (mothers cross) Felice fell in love with. Surviving friends and fellows of Felice tell another story. At least one even suspects Lily betrayed Felice by selling her out to the Gestapo. Who is right and who is wrong I don't dare to judge. Maybe the truth lies somewhere inbetween. But I think it's important to know that we will maybe never know the whole truth.

Sorry for going on such a long excursion into all that background material and I hope I got it all short but comprehensive enough. I only can hope it helps. And I really like your story, the way you write it. Go on. I love reading the next updates. Even if I fear on the background of the history there will be a lot of rough time for Wilma and her Tara.

Thanks for daring to write the story. And if you ever need some information about details please feel free to ask. Maybe I have some useful information.
sacinema

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 Post subject: Re: Night of Broken Glass --New Fic
PostPosted: Mon Sep 24, 2007 7:05 pm 
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2. Floating Rose
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Hi Sacinema,

Thank you so much for your comments. Very helpful. I realized approaching this project that getting details right (or as right as I could) would be important, but I was writing this from second-hand or even third-hand information at best. I've read Lily Wust's book and seen the movie; I saw a great exhibit on Anne Frank and read her unabridged diaries; I read a very gruesome historic text titled "Neighbors," which is the account of a single day during WWII when one half of a Polish town killed the other half. I looked a lot of stuff up online and on Wiki when I realized I had a question, but certain things only brought up more confusion or questions. And I relied on the emotional underpinnings of Joe Sacco's excellent piece of graphic novel journalism "Safe Area Gorazde," about the Bosnian war--again, a time when neighbors turned against neighbors. Finally, I've just tried to imagine what myself--or our intrepid cast of characters--would do or feel if faced with a hellmouth like this, letting humanness win out over detail to a certain extent.

I'll probably get certain things out of chronological timeline, and I fear that I won't have the finer details of how the SS, Gestapo and other organizations operated or even interfaced with each other. Plus a number of other time-period details. Like women's undergarments...

One thing I know I changed was military titles. I refer to Riley as a captain, though I don't think the German army or SS actually had such a designation. Actually, I found the whole German army and SS titles a little confusing, so I opted to just go with "captain."

As for the character names, keeping them in the BTVS universe was a conscious choice. I love the sweetness of the Scoobie relationships, the way they speak, their mannerisms and how they relate to one another. This was my opportunity to play with the characters I love so much, so I was loathe to make them true to period and take anything away from that. I really wanted to play with them as they are. And I found that doing so makes it all the more jarring when Willow changes her identity. You'll see she has a hard time being a good "Wilma."

Perhaps if the next story I write is an uber, I'll make the names and characters a bit more true to time period. But for now, this is my first fanfic, and for me it was more fun to write them this way.

Again, thank you for your thoughtful comments. I welcome more notes you might have about the historic parts, because I have had many questions along the way. And I'm glad you're enjoying the story so far, because, yes, things stay on the knife's edge for our characters the whole way.

Take care,

Junecleavage


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 Post subject: Re: Night of Broken Glass --New Fic
PostPosted: Mon Sep 24, 2007 8:17 pm 
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Night of Broken Glass--PART 2

By Junecleavage


Rating: NC-17 for explicit sex and violence. There’s character death and a lot of close calls.

Uber setting: It’s 1943 Berlin, and the Nazis are the Big Bad

Summary: Inspired by the great biography of Aimee & Jaguar. In Nazi Germany, Willow Rosenberg pretends to be a non-Jew in order to survive (with the help of Xander and Buffy). She gets herself on the Gestapo’s hit list and meets and falls in love with Tara, a woman whose family are Nazi supporters. Lots of Buffyverse characters are here. I do not claim to be an expert on WWII, German military or Germany for that matter, but I did use Wikipedia a lot.



Part 2

The hotel was a grand place, with gilt and filigree and mirrored walls. It seemed large enough you could inflate a zeppelin in it, and the big band playing Cuban samba music at the far end of the hall seemed tiny. This was a showplace of opulence and engineering, and as the war wasn't going so well these days, the Germans needed things like this to remind them of what they were fighting for,...and of the reasons why the purity of their race was of the utmost urgency to civilization: Only the master race could be capable of great works like these. "Never mind that the pyramids were built by Africans," Willow was saying as she nervously deconstructed the whole charade while walking along on Xander's arm. Xander patted her hand sweetly. "Dear, please try not to bait the Nazis tonight, ok?"

"I can't help it. My mind has a low threshold for things that just don't make sense."

Xander stopped and turned to Willow, his eyes taking in the sight of her in her evening gown, which was black and came to black lace along the chest and neck and arms. Willow looked beautiful. "Will," he said. "I know it's tough for a brainiac like you, but tonight, just for once, please power down the synapses and focus on having a good time."

She smiled in that old way that had always made him adore her. She was appraising him in his uniform, and it was clear she liked what she saw. There. She was getting her priorities straight. She seemed proud and awed of him somehow and it made him feel ten feet tall. In a moment she had turned off nervous, over-analyzing Willow and became the girl he'd known since childhood.

"Some champagne would help," she wryly suggested, and he thought about the money in his wallet. He wasn't sure he could swing it. Wartime had made such luxuries nearly unaffordable. He grinned gallantly nonetheless. "But, of course." He scanned the crowd for anyone he knew who might be willing to go in with him on a bottle. His gaze landed on Tara, who looked resplendent--so much so he almost missed the fact that she was there with her boy-captain Riley.

“Oh. Friends!" he managed to blurt out, and practically dragged Willow across the room to meet them.

Riley spotted them first, smiling and nodding Xander over. He said something to Tara who turned quickly in surprise. She seemed taken aback at the sight of Xander in his uniform, and then even more taken aback by the sight of the woman on his arm.

Xander grinned and made introductions. "Will, this is Captain Riley Finn and his girlfriend Tara....and Tara and Riley, this is Wil- uh- Wilma Hermann, my friend, and a copy editor for The People's Press."

Riley was clearly impressed by the last part. He took her hand and kissed it, as was customary when formally being introduced to a lady in polite society. "The People's Press," he said. "The men on the front lines are ever indebted to the news organizations for keeping our loved ones informed of the our progress. It's a pleasure to meet someone so dedicated to the war effort."

Willow blushed bashfully and replied, "I'm just doing what I can to keep up morale these days." She said it more about herself, of course, than about the war effort, which she just hoped would go to hell. Where it belonged.

Tara couldn't help staring at Xander's date. She was beautiful and charming and wearing a really great dress. There was an air of confidence and sophistication about her. She even held an important and high-profile job. For a moment, Tara felt small and inconsequential, just another hausfrau--and not even a frau at that, definitely nothing special. But then, Willow's attention turned, her eyes kind and sparkling and genuinely interested in Tara. Willow took her hand almost in an echo of Riley's masculine politeness and held it in greeting. Her touch was light and her skin warm and soft. "It's really nice to meet you," Willow was saying, though Tara absorbed the words in a squishy and remote way as if her head were underwater. "Xander told me about the other night how he met you during the air raid." She leaned in conspiratorially. "Thanks for making sure no rocks fell on his head. His head's a little soft."

Xander rolled his eyes. "What about you? I heard you nearly threw up on Buffy's shoes that night."

Willow scowled in mock reproach. "I was scared. I have this whole list of things I want to do before I die, and it was a little unnerving thinking I might not have the chance to do them."

"And nearly throwing up on Buffy's shoes is one of the things on your list?" Xander quipped.

Willow looked confused. "Uh, no. That wasn't really on there. But I guess I can add it. And, heck, I can check it off, too."

Riley patted Xander's back in comradely fashion. "It's fair to say that these are hard times for just about everyone. Let's go get the ladies some champagne and forget our worries for a while." Xander grinned as if his evil plan to make Riley pay for the drinks had worked. Which it had. He followed the captain to the bar, venturing a quick look over his shoulder at the women.

"Don't mind us. We're fine," Willow waved. And then Willow and Tara were standing looking at each other.

"Why don't you j- join us o- over at our table?" Tara managed to get out, though with some obvious effort. Damn, she hated that nervous stutter. But Willow didn't seem to mind. She smiled a broad smile and took Tara's hand again with a simple, "Lead away."

##

"Can't we send you out into the countryside somewhere?" Giles was asking, though he knew it was a stupid idea. But he was feeling desperate and there weren't a lot of options. Jenny Calendar was pacing the floor of his small living room, her eyes trained on the carpet like they had been for the last half-hour. Her shoes made a soft squeak on the floorboards with each step.

"Enough," Buffy said, a tad more sharply than she'd intended.

"I can put a hex on them. That's what the Gypsies are supposed to do, right? That's what they think we're all about. Well, that, and tramping about," Jenny was saying. She was blathering in her anger. "Fuck this."

Buffy uncrossed her arms and climbed to her feet. "I have a plan," she said, waiting for the nervous commotion in the room to stop. It did. She had their attention. She drew a deep breath and continued.

"I know a guy who can get Jenny a visa. I can get her to England. And, Giles, I can get you there too. Pull a few strings. You know. But I can get it done."

Jenny stared at her. "What. You're going to have Xander forge more papers? His little trick for Willow may end up costing him dearly. These assholes play for keeps."

Giles interrupted, stepping forward softly. "Jenny's right. Xander needs to lay low. And Willow, too."

Buffy shook her head, her jaw set. "Right now they're at the Royal Hotel mixing it up with the high-steppers."

Jenny and Giles looked at her like she were mad...or Willow and Xander were mad. Or both. "They're at a Nazi soiree?" Giles hissed.

Jenny was agitated now. She pulled out a cigarette and lit up, muttering to herself. "Willow's getting in way over her head. I don't like it. She's got what? Maybe two lives left?"

Buffy shook off the cryptic remark. "Listen, this doesn't have to involve either of them. They're ok. Really. I have another source."

Giles gave her a fatherly glare. "All of this covert business is far too dangerous. Jenny and I will take a car out into the country."

Buffy shrugged in frustration. "Hello? The police have most certainly gone through all of Jenny's things back at her apartment. They probably have figured out who she is, and they'll be looking for her. Taking a drive out of the city just isn't gonna cut it."

She turned to Jenny. "You've got to travel out of here. Get far away. Just until this stupid war is over. Put your life on hold. But at least you'll still have one."

Jenny seemed to mull this over. "Then Willow's coming, too. I won't leave her here."

Buffy let out a sigh. "Willow's going to do what she's going to do. I'll talk to her about it. But in the meantime tell me you want the visas because it's going to take some time to get them." They all knew what she really meant was that it was going to take some risk to get them.

Jenny's hands were shaking as she took another drag on her cigarette. She blew out smoke and finally said, "Ok."

##

Willow was extremely confused. The beautiful girl at the table with her had a boyfriend who was just about the biggest Nazi blowhard she had ever met, though of course her new occupation would likely bring her into circles with many, many more Nazi blowhards. And yet Tara seemed, well, genuinely nice. She came off as gentle and accepting, and truly interested in Willow.

Of course, dummy. She has no idea she's sitting here with an evil Jew. For a moment Willow feared what she might feel if Tara happened to spew some anti-Semitic statement, which Good Germans were so prone to doing these days. Somehow Willow had a sense that such a remark would really sting in a way that the countless other remarks she'd heard over the years hadn't come close to. She tried to ponder why that was. Maybe that now she was Wilma she expected to get the real scoop on what the gentiles thought about the Jews. Was that what bothered her? Or was it something more specific to Tara? A person who, under different circumstances, Willow thought she might actually like as a friend.

And what was with all the touching? Willow had always been affectionate with Xander and Buffy, but Tara was a complete stranger and yet Willow realized she now knew the exact temperature and sensation of the skin of Tara's hand, the softness and texture of her fingers. Why the hell couldn't she just drop it and leave it alone? Maybe it was the champagne. The boys had toasted a glass with them and then disappeared, leaving the bottle between the women. She and Tara had downed their first glass and were now on glass number two.

Tara sensed Willow's nervousness and grasped for something to say to break the silence.

"W- what part of town do you live in?" she asked. Not exactly the most interesting or witty conversation-starter, but it would have to do.

Willow's eyes saddened. "Uh, my apartment kind of, well, it got blown up, so I'm a little in between places, you might say."

"I'm so sorry. I got off easy the other night, but I know so many other people didn't. I think I'd probably have thrown up on somebody's shoes, too, if I were in your place."

A wry smile crept across Willow's face and the effect was luminous. "Don't apologize for being in one piece. I'm glad you're ok."

Tara's eyes focused on the tablecloth, unnerved by the gentle kindness of Willow's gaze and by intimacy of what Tara was going to ask next: "So what exactly is on that list of things you want to do before you die?" Tara regretted she hadn't the ambition to even have thought of such a thing for herself. This beautiful red-headed girl before her had an intensity she wished she herself possessed. Tara was curious.

Willow lost herself in thought for a moment, wondering really what she could tell a Nazi, since so many of the things on her list included, well, screwing the Nazis. She took a deep breath and plunged in. "Well, I'd really like to work as a photo-journalist. I- I have this job at the newspaper, so I guess that's a step in the right direction. Uh, let’s see…I'd like to go to university because I love learning--but, but I can't b- because I need to work, you know, to support myself, so my friend Buffy lets me borrow her books, and I, you know, do a lot of the reading for her and help her out because it’s easy for me---just kinda how my brain works. So, huh, maybe it’s like I am going to university, except without the degree.” A pause, and then: “I'd like to someday live in a nice retirement home, since that means I'd probably have made it through this crazy war and lived to a ripe old age, and, um, that would be a really good thing..." She paused again, taking another deep breath. "And I'd kind of like to fall in love, you know, for real?" Her mouth was dry after this last part. She had no idea she was going to say it, but then she also had the sudden awareness that the words were absolutely true.

Tara frowned. She had a cute frown. "W-what about you and Xa- Xander?"

Willow looked over her shoulder to where Xander and Riley were engaging in some man talk and cigar smoking among a group of military types. Her gaze was affectionate. "I love him. We've been friends since we were, like, five. I can't imagine my life without him. But we’re just friends." Xander seemed to understand this, too. He'd never shown more than brotherly affection for her. And that was ok. It was enough between them.

"I want something more," she found herself saying, as if her mouth would not shut up. "Every day I wake up wondering if it will be my last, and I just crave in the most visceral way to feel something messy and passionate and all-consuming...to have something that overrides absolutely everything else--that, that obliterates all of the pain and suffering and fucked-up-ness. I just want something that's, you know, mine."

Tara was surprised by her companion's fragile candor, but then everything about Willow's face was open and honest. Tara's heart beat a bit faster at the realization that some of the things Willow wanted were the same things she herself wanted but had assumed she would never have. Particularly that last one.

Willow's gaze was dangerously naked. Tara held it a moment, and then dared herself to hold it a moment more. Willow broke first, with a joke. "And also I'd like to visit the country and maybe get over my fear of horses."

Tara brightened at this. "Horses? Oh, I could help you with that one. I grew up on a farm outside the city. We still have family there. I could take you sometime." She was shocked again at her forwardness and thought perhaps she was making a new friend.

Willow grinned. "See, and then maybe I could check off another thing from my list."

##

The boys eventually gave up on the Nazi talk and cigars and returned to the table with another bottle of champagne. Xander was feeling smug at his good fortune that he'd found them companions with cash--and clout. Riley seemed to think nothing of it. It was almost as if he were relieved that Xander appeared to already have a girlfriend so he didn't have to worry about somebody making a move on Tara.

"How's my girl?" Riley asked Tara, leaning down and kissing the top of her head. Xander and Willow exchanged glances. Even buzzed on champagne they both knew that Riley's treatment of her more resembled the affection he might have for a pet cat than for someone perhaps destined to be his wife.

Willow didn't get it. Tara was lovely. The lights seemed to gleam off the blond hair she wore pulled back from her face. Her skin was luminous. Her eyes the color of the ocean. Her whole aspect sensual. Xander was drooling. And then she noticed that she, herself, was a little slack-jawed. But Riley wasn't. He patted Tara's shoulder and swung into the chair beside her. Tara gave Riley a shy smile that could scarcely have hinted at its full carnal power. A power that somehow Willow knew was there. Didn’t Riley see it?

Willow bolted down another swallow of champagne, wondering what the hell was wrong with these two. They were Hitler's perfect specimens, and, darn it to hell, they were certainly never going to mate. Take that, evil Eugenics! She shot another glance at Xander. The smirk on his face said it all. He knew it, too. Tara was Riley's chattel.

But instead of amusement, Willow felt anger rising up inside her. She slammed her glass on the table and commanded: "Let's dance."

Xander flinched and then nodded agreeably with the plan. He took Willow's hand and led her across the room to the dance floor. The Cuban band was playing a slinky, hip-swaying number.

Tara watched them go, her eyes never leaving Willow's back, following the play of black lace as it charmed its way through the crowd. It seemed as soon as Willow left the table she took all the warmth in the room with her. Until she and Xander started dancing, and then the heat was back, this time rising up in Tara's cheeks. There was nothing overtly sexual about the way the pair danced. In fact, they fell into a friendly intimacy that was borne of familiarity. So what was it that made Tara wish she were there with them?

Tara drained her third glass of champagne and grabbed Riley's hand. "You heard the lady," she said. "Let's dance."

##

"Oh my god, do you think those two could be any more wooden?" Xander was laughing as he swept Willow across the dance floor. Xander was not a bad dancer, Willow thought. Or maybe it was the champagne doing the thinking. Hey, in fact, she wasn't really thinking. Yay, brain! Xander was right: She really could turn it off and enjoy herself.

"Maybe it's one of those, you know, arranged marriage things," Willow replied archly.

"Yeah, I hear the government has one of those books where you can mix and match your mate based on certain characteristics."

"Like choosing color swatches," Willow nodded. "Except all the swatches are, you know, pale."

"Guess that means I'm not in the book," Xander smiled. "Being tall, dark and handsome and all."

"It's ok, honey. You'd get points for being tall. And handsome."

That pleased Xander, and he gave Willow a good swing that made her eyes go wide. Whoa...Hips in new places.

"Right back at you. I'd let you in my gene pool anytime."

"I bet you say that to all the ladies."

"Just the beautiful ones."

Willow blushed. Chuckling, Xander asked, "Which reminds me. Did she talk about me?"

That did it. With the flick of her wrist, Willow took the lead from him. Xander laughed and fell into step with her. Willow shot him a mischievously intoxicated look and said, "About you? Not so much. We talked about me."

Xander's eyebrows shot nearly up to his hairline. "Is that right? Wow. Who knew Wilma Hermann already had a back-story."

"Wilma's got a lot more than that, wouldn't you say?" With that she gave him a dramatic dip.

##

The night was cold, and Buffy really, really wished she hadn't left her hat--the one Xander gave her last Christmas--at Spike's. She took the trolly partway to his house, then got off and walked the last 10 blocks. A glance up to a lighted window high above told her he was still up. From the front steps, she rang the bell to his apartment. It was late, but he'd be expecting her.

His apartment was on the fourth floor, and the steps were a good workout. Buffy climbed them two at a time. When she hit the landing, Spike was standing in his doorway. He bowed and admitted her into his home.

"And what brings you here tonight, I wonder?" he asked, leaning against the door as he closed it behind her. The look on his face made it plain he was hoping she'd admit it was lust. He was infuriating, but useful. Putting up with his crap was just part of the price she paid for having him on her side.

Buffy scanned his apartment, idly wondering how he spent his time up here. There were newspapers scattered about and unwashed dishes in the sink. He was nowhere near as fussy and tidy as Giles. She sat on the arm of a chair, carefully avoiding newspapers and other errata. "I need some help," she said, her gaze unwavering, as if she were on a mission of greatest importance.

Spike held her gaze a moment, weighing its gravity, and then let out a deep chuckle. "Oh, right. This is about getting visas or something for one of your little friends. What's up? The Jew get kicked out of her apartment again? Or maybe her boy's been found out a sympathizer by the Gestapo?" Spike had never met Willow or Xander, or Buffy's family for that matter. She had scrupulously worked to keep him out of their affairs. He didn't even know their names, though she did talk about them from time to time. They were important to her.

In a way, Spike was grateful not to know them. In his line of work, hunting down Jews, traitors and degenerates, he really would rather walk into an arrest situation innocent of whether he was screwing up the lives of people Buffy loved. It somehow made things morally simpler for him. He could help them behind the scenes a bit--for a price, of course. And they were free to hide as best they could, but if he found them, then it became about his work. He couldn't help what he was.

That Buffy came to him for help was baffling in a way. He knew deep down she must love him, though she'd never admit it. That had to be the real reason she kept coming around, with these thin excuses. Getting visas was no problem. He had access to records because of his line of detective work. And he had friends in official organizations like the Red Cross, who could be counted upon--again for a price--to supply him with papers. He really didn't mind working both sides. People were people. They had a right to do what they liked, to defend themselves or run or hide or whatever. But as the war wore on and the Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals and other riffraff became fewer and fewer in Berlin, his job became simpler in some ways. He and his detective partner would be handed a dossier and they had more time to track down a good trail and a lead. That probably meant that at some point one of Buffy's friends would come into the cross-hairs of one of his investigations. He sorely hoped that if the day came he wouldn't be aware of who he was picking up, or interrogating or chasing down and shooting, or whatever. And he really hoped Buffy never visited his apartment with tears in her eyes because one of her friends was dead. It was just a matter of time and the law of averages. Fate was stacking against her. She was a university student. Surely she could understand the math.

"Ok, love," he purred. Give me the particulars. Gender. Age. Make up some occupation and come up with some amusing name, too. That stuff. And I'll see what I can do. I assume you have money."

Buffy nodded, her coat pocket stuffed with all the cash Giles and Jenny could manage...and a few food stamps to boot in case it wasn't enough. She pulled it out and gave him all of it. He eyed the bills and chuckled at the stamps. These people obviously meant something to her. Could it be the girl she would only refer to as "Red" and the boy she called "X-Man"? Or maybe her mom and sis? Buffy didn't say. She grabbed a notepad from his kitchen table and started scribbling.

##


It was late, and Riley and Xander were off fetching the ladies' coats. That left Tara and Willow standing together in the lobby of the grand hotel. They faced each other, warmed by champagne and dancing. They smiled at each other in affable silence, comfortable in each other's company. Willow thought she could stand for a long time just watching how the lights played off Tara's skin, and how the blue of her eyes seemed to change colors depending upon how the light hit them.

Tara caught Willow staring, and her smile spread into a lopsided grin.

"It was nice meeting you, Wilma," Tara said a bit shyly.

Willow was taken aback by the use of her new name and was dragged back to the reality of the true distance between them, between herself and anyone, really, the things that would remain lies beneath the veneer of her new life. Xander was wrong. She'd developed no back-story for Wilma. Tonight had been pure Willow. Part of her wanted Tara to know that girl.

Tara picked up a bit of the sadness as Willow replied, "Yeah, it was really nice to meet you, too, Tara. I had a great time." She teetered a bit unsteadily on her feet. "Maybe too much of a good time, truth be told."

Tara steadied Willow's arm and found herself wondering where the pretty redhead who was not Xander's girlfriend was headed now. "Do you have other family in the area you can stay with?"

It was as if a cloud momentarily passed across the sun. "No family," she said. "But I have friends I can stay with until I find a new place."

"You're lucky to have friends," Tara said, an ache in her heart at the realization she could really use some herself.

Willow's smile seemed to even surprise herself. "Yeah. I am kinda lucky."

##

Willow tossed a rock up to Buffy's bedroom window. It was her sister Dawn who drew open the sash. "Oh. Willow?" Dawn whispered.

"Yeah, um, mind if I come in?"

"Sure. Nice dress," Dawn replied. "Are you sure you want to climb up in that?"

Joyce slept in the front room, and Willow really didn't want to wake her.

"Yeah. I'll climb up. Just give me a minute." It was freezing cold, but Willow didn't want to risk tearing the only nice dress she had--one of the few nice things she'd bought with an advance from the newspaper office. Mr. Gruber had been kind and understanding, what with the fact that Willow's apartment had been destroyed by the evil Allies and all. It was cold out, but Willow peeled off her overcoat and tossed it up to Dawn, shivering. Then she slipped out of the dress, feeling a bit more than daring standing half-naked in the alleyway. She carefully tossed the dress next.

While Willow climbed, Dawn's fingers ran over the garment. "It looks so good on you. And I think it might fit me, too. Do you mind if I borrow it sometime?"

Willow wasn't really listening. "Sure." She was more focused on keeping her balance. At the windowsill, Dawn grasped her wrist and pulled her inside.

"Wow! It's freezing out there," Willow hissed against chattering teeth. And then next: "Where's Buffy?"

Dawn waved a hand dismissively. "Oh, she's out with one of her boyfriends. She should be climbing up the wall any time now. I thought you were her."

"Buffy has boyfriends?" Willow pondered aloud. Her friend had never mentioned it.

Dawn was sketchy. "I think she's dating some SS guy. Or maybe two. I don't know. She doesn't talk about it much. Maybe she thinks mom would disapprove."

Willow shook off her surprise, kicked off her shoes, quickly got ready for bed and then slipped in next to Dawn. She fell asleep thinking about dancing, the shape and temperature of Tara's hand and the list of things she wanted to do before she died.

Sometime near morning, Willow felt a cold body slip into the bed between Dawn and her. Buffy snuggled down and burrowed her face into Willow's hair, drawing herself up tight against Willow's warm back. "Geez, Will, when did you take up cigar smoking?" she chuckled against her friend's neck. It tickled. Willow smiled, replying, "All the Nazis are doing it."

"And if the Nazis all jumped off a cliff you'd jump right with them, eh?"

It was Willow's turn to chuckle. "Nah. That would be pretty neat, though."

##

Spike strolled into the SS office of the secret police a bit late the next morning, a corrugated box under his left arm. He stubbed out his cigarette in the lobby and headed for the stairs up to his office. On the landing he spotted the clerk at his desk. An affable enough guy. Just a regular Joe. Young and a little soft. Interchangeable with any of the rest.

"Morning, Harris," Spike said as he glided by in his long overcoat. Harris barely looked up. "A fine morning it is, Mr. Blood." Spike chuckled. The kid greeted him differently every day. Sometimes it was, "Morning, did you say?" or "Right back at you, Mr. B." Always something. Spike let the chipperness follow him into his office like a soothing breeze. He flipped on the electric light and tossed the carton on his desk and hung his hat and coat on the tree behind the door. The sun was shining a tad too brightly, so he pulled the blind down half-way. That was when he trained his attention to the box. Taking a seat at his desk he began pulling out items and inspecting each of them for clues. There were always clues. When his boys had cleaned out a nest of Jews a few days ago there were a couple of occupants unaccounted for. The other Jews wouldn't fess up, of course. They always ran thick as thieves and couldn't be trusted to give away their own kind. No, his men had questioned the neighbors instead, giving them polite but firm treatment, accusing them of knowingly harboring Jews. That sort of thing always made the Good Germans a bit nervous and was usually enough to get them to cave. From the report he knew he was looking for a couple of young women. Names of Willow and Jenny.

Now he picked through the small belongings of the former occupants of the squalid little apartment, bits of cheap jewelry, a hair brush, a lipstick, old letters and a myriad of strange little mementos that these folks so often latched onto when they left their former lives behind to live on the lamb. He shoved each one of these personal things impersonally aside. He was looking for something specific. Papers, passports or...ah, yes, here they are: snapshots. Sepia-toned and a little blurry. Nothing written on the back, which was a shame. That usually made things easier. But there were definitely photos of two women who were not among those folks picked up. They were pretty, one a bit younger than the other--obviously not related by blood. From their smiles it was clear the snaps were taken in happier times. As was always the case.

Spike stubbed out another cigarette in a crystal ashtray on his desk (a souvenir from just such another box a few months back) and sighed. He began the task of the real detective work: trying to piece together the stories of these two ladies. How well did they know each other? Were they friends from way back? Might they be on the lamb together still? The first order of business was figuring out which one was Willow and which was Jenny. He always felt a better hunter when he could put a name to a face.

He sauntered down the hall to the office of his partner--an evil fuck named Caleb. Spike never cared for him. He was about the most heartless bastard Spike had ever met, and Spike considered himself fairly heartless. Caleb was a real piece of work. Hurting girls made him happy. Spike hammered his fist on the closed door, setting the window glass shaking.

"Come on, partner. We have some people to go see," he said.

Caleb opened the door, his coat and hat in hand. He tossed them on quickly and then inspected his handgun before pocketing it. His eyes flicked briefly over the photos Spike showed him.

"Pretty ones," was all he said for a long moment. Then, as the two of them were ambling down the hall: "It's the pretty ones who always turn out to have the darkest souls."

Spike had long since chosen to ignore the former preacher’s twisted good-and-evil mutterings. Today was a workday. He had work to do. They both had work to do. And so fuck the wacky bastard. They would just go do it.

##

Tara woke early. The apartment was cold and the sunlight bright. She rolled over to find Riley there beside her. She was in a small satin nightgown. He was fully clothed. Well, except his shoes were off. Socks. But no shoes. He was huddled up beside her, sleeping like a baby. In fact, his face seemed so serene and angelic, his breath tickling at the nape of her neck. She let out a sigh and leaned back into the pillows, staring up at the shapes in the tin ceiling above her. Why wouldn't he touch her? It wasn't like she hadn't been forward. Hell, she was half-naked. She'd practically thrown herself at him last night after he'd brought her home from the dance. No. Actually, she had thrown herself at him. He had seen her practically head-to-toe naked and still he fell asleep on her. Riley hadn’t been her first boyfriend, and in the past she’d never encountered anything quite like this, so she was worried. What did this mean?

Had he been drunk? There had been a lot of champagne last night. Maybe he passed out. Or- or maybe there was something wrong with her? She wasn't pretty enough or strong enough, or something enough. Did she do it all wrong? Should she have let him take the lead? Was it the man's job to decide things like this? Should she get up now and put on some clothes and just pretend nothing had happened? Did she want to stay here until he awoke, to see if something might happen? What is it that she did want, really?

She frowned. For all of this she blamed in an odd sort of way one Wilma Hermann. She had seemed so certain and self-possessed. And it was certainly not lost on Tara how the girl had maneuvered Xander so that she was leading their dancing. A bold move that made Tara feel kind of funny inside, as she thought about it. She'd never danced with another girl that way, letting another girl lead, and so she thought about that, about how that might feel, if Wilma had been leading her. Or if she herself were the one doing the leading.

How interesting.

There were so many things a woman might do that Tara had never stepped outside her prescribed role to imagine. She could hold a job. Wilma did. She could have men as friends and keep it at that, the way Wilma seemed to with Xander. Would Riley be happy with Tara as a friend and companion without the complications or obligations of sex? She glanced at him again, his peaceful face and thought that, yes, perhaps all he really wanted was this simple, unnamed thing they shared. He called her whenever he was in town. They'd go do things. She'd go to events with him. He'd take her to dinners. He was handsome in his uniform, and she knew she was lovely on his arm. He liked talking with her. They spent long hours talking. Or listening to the radio. He'd sleep here sometimes, with her pulled tightly against him. In her presence he was absolutely as vulnerable as it was possible for him to be and she let him be vulnerable and did not judge him.

He'd done terrible things. In war, how could one not? Tara chose not to dwell upon it. Of course he'd killed people, and killing is an evil thing, right? No matter how just the battle. He'd spent time at the Front. He'd led men into combat who had never returned from it. That had to haunt him. Tara tried to imagine herself in his place and knew that killing was something far beyond her. In fact, she couldn't imagine it. Or wouldn't.

So if he lay here peacefully, and if she gave him some real comfort, made him feel whole, even, if that were possible… then that was worth something. He didn't ask much of her in return. He didn't pry into her life, or try to direct her. To a certain extent she was free.

She slipped quietly out of bed and drew on her robe and walked to the window, gazing out over the street far below. The city was waking and starting to stir. That meant that people would be going to work. That industry would rise in its natural rhythm and life would go on as usual, even despite the war and the rubble and ruin. And Riley would rise and ready himself to go back to the front today. He was leading men to the eastern front to engage the Russians, who were proving difficult to defeat given their great numbers and the difficulty of traversing the cruel winter terrain. She knew he must be frightened. She was frightened for him. And she would miss him. She would be alone.

She headed to the kitchen to make him breakfast. It was another measure of comfort she could give him and that he would accept. While she poured water from the tap into the teakettle another thought struck her. She set the kettle on the stove and fetched a pad of paper and a pen and began composing a letter. To Wilma.

##

Things were all abuzz at The People's Press office. Willow glided in quietly and found her desk. There was a stack of copy there for her to proofread, but she let it sit there a moment. She looked up to where Mr. Gruber was, in his office pacing back and forth, visible through the window. He was talking on the telephone. The men of the newsroom were busy at typewriters or on phones. Willow moved past them to the pressroom, just as she had every morning since coming to work here. The typesetters were a friendly lot. They liked having a pretty girl in the newsroom--especially one who seemed to take an interest in what they were doing. They teased her gently and she went about her business scanning the galleys for anything interesting. She knew she could always wait until the paper came out. But she was drawn to the information. She had a compulsion to know the latest news--any scrap that might give her encouragement or be useful in some way.

There was a lot of hateful bullshit to wade through. But whenever she felt her face redden, she'd remind herself again that she was someone new. Today much of the news was a recasting of the "progress" on the eastern Front. She knew the truth of the situation must be truly awful because it sounded bad enough even in its sanitized presentation here. She looked at the casualty counts and felt sickened. Was all of this so worth the cost, really? She glanced at the jovial men setting type. They joked and chuckled and went about their work as if the world hadn't come unglued. When many of their neighbors had disappeared, their businesses burned, their possessions stolen by the government, or even by their neighbors. When many of their brothers had marched off to fight and die. And when what it took for them to still feel good about themselves was to believe in the words that appeared on the sheets of newsprint issued from this office everyday--or the words on the radio. All that stood between them and self-loathing, shame and fear were words.

She gave a little wave to the boys and headed back to her desk. She turned her mind off as she went about her work proofing copy. She was good at grammar and could diagram any sentence, finding comfort in the almost-mathematical rules of language.

It was almost noon before Gruber came out of his office and greeted her. The expression on his face made her think that perhaps she wasn't the only one saddened by the drubbing the Germans were taking at the hands of the Russians. "These are trying times, indeed," was all he would say, though, running a hand through his silver hair. He was a consummate wordsmith, of course, but his eyes were at odds with his understatements. She nodded gravely in return. He smiled in fatherly fashion at her. "Ah, yes, you know what I mean," he said. "You always do."

With that he handed her an envelope. "I wonder if this might be from an admirer?" he asked casually, perhaps trying to lighten the mood a bit. Willow was confused. Was it something from Xander or Buffy--or Jenny? And if so, it couldn't be good news, because why, if it were good news, would they try to so desperately reach her, right?

Gruber saw her trepidation as she took the letter from him. He chuckled. "Come on, it can't be so bad as that, Miss Hermann. After all, the letter is perfumed."

Willow was startled and confused, not only at the fact of a perfumed letter addressed to Wilma Hermann, but also at the knowledge that Mr. Gruber was not above sniffing the morning mail.

##

It took another 15 minutes to get Gruber to go back to his office and stay there so that Willow had some privacy with which to open the envelope in peace. He'd already popped out twice with silly grammar questions for her to answer, as if she were the newspaper's schoolmarm. She was fairly certain he was toying with her. She guessed that was good. Meant he liked her enough, anyway, that she didn't have to worry about keeping her job. She patiently shooed him away one last time with the flick of her wrist, and she could see a crease of smile on his face. She hated that he was making a big production out of something that, well, might just be worthy of a big production.

Finally, with shaking hands she opened the envelope and slipped out a single sheet of paper. The handwriting was unfamiliar.

It took a moment to register, and then she realized the letter was from Joyce, Buffy's mom. She scanned it quickly, heat rising up in her cheeks as she did so. She wasn't expecting this. Well, maybe she was, but not the news coming to her in this way.

"Dear Willow,

"I sincerely hope things are going well for you with your new job. I'm glad to know it has so much promise for someone as bright and talented as you. I'm sure you'll do very well there, as you seem to do well in everything you put your mind to. I hope the job affords you a bit of independence, perhaps even the ability to rent an apartment. I think that's why you'll understand the request I'm going to make of you. And I surely hope you will understand that this has nothing to do with how dear you are to me, or to my daughters. It's just that I feel as a mother that I need to look out for their well-being first and foremost, and so it would be best if you found some other place to stay. I hope you will be happy, and I'll be eager to hear news from Buffy about how you're faring. Joyce."

Willow craned to see around her desk. She noticed that the letter had come with a suitcase.

##

Spike lit a cigarette and stretched his legs. From this comfy spot he was merely a watcher as Caleb did all the talking. In fact, Caleb could do the whole thing. The whole good cop-bad cop routine. Spike was really superfluous to this task. Caleb liked "interviewing" neighbors. The detectives were enjoying the afternoon sunlight in Mrs. Eberhardt's parlour as Caleb presented first the one snapshot and then the other for the old lady's inspection. She had politely told them that there were so many people coming and going from that rented room that she never had learned everybody's names.

"This is very serious business, Mrs. Eberhardt. They have committed grave sins against the state. We're asking good citizens to step forward and aid us in their quick apprehension," Caleb said with such solemnity that you'd have thought the girls in question were murderers.

"Goodness, what have those people done?" Mrs. E asked, her mouth slightly agape.

Caleb chuckled softly. It was a perfunctory and mirthless sound as if he were reciting from an old, worn playbook. "I really can't tell you. That's state business. But suffice to say you're considerably safer with that bad element gone from your building. I can only hope that these two women do not try to come back here. It would be dangerous for you if they did. These women are dangerous."

That last bit was a damn lie, of course. If those two girls in the photos were capable of violence he would be shocked. He'd never met a woman yet who had resisted arrest. A few ran. They were easily dispatched with a handgun. But there was never fisticuffs. The ladies never wore weapons, though you'd think these days it might not be such a bad idea.

Caleb looked Mrs. Eberhardt hard in the eyes. He held up one photo. "Willow?" and then the other: "Jenny?"

Mrs. E pursed her lips and practically trembled. That meant she definitely knew these girls. Liked them, even. Caleb just about had her. He reversed the order of the photos. "Jenny? Willow? If you know, Mrs. Eberhardt, you have to tell me. Failure to cooperate is a crime against the government during wartime. And I assure you these two fugitives are not worth getting yourself arrested."

Spike could see the self-loathing as the old woman caved in. With a slight head nod to the left she said, "That one's Willow, the redhead."

Here a few hours later it was after quitting time and Spike sat in the tightly-packed trolly as it made its way across town. He'd picked up the evening paper, The People's Press, and was trying to read despite the poor light and the jostling. A heavy-set woman knocked into him at one stop and interrupted his reading. In frustration he folded the newspaper under his arm to read later. Instead he scanned the heads of the folks ahead of him. That's when he noticed a girl with red hair sitting a few rows up and to the right.

Of course, now that he knew one of his fugitives was a redhead he'd suddenly start spotting a million of them everywhere, probably. This girl was a tantalizing specimen because he couldn't see her face. From behind she seemed small and slim. He could just catch the slightest curve of pale cheek. Certainly not enough to compare to the snapshot he carried in his pocket. Besides, he was off-duty, right?

Still, what the woman had said had stuck with him. This Willow was a redhead. Made chances of finding her a lot easier. But there was a twinge of trepidation as well. Could he be on the tail of Buffy's friend "Red"? He sure as hell hoped not. And yet he was curious to know things about Buffy's life--to know who she was close to, what she liked to do, where she liked to hang out--even what she was studying at university. He found himself wanting to know her friends, to see the people who'd won the heart and loyalty of Buffy, when clearly he himself hadn't. Maybe he'd find he wasn't so unlike them, after all.

He couldn't say exactly why, but when "Red's" turn to get off the trolly came, Spike purposely ignored his professional impulse to follow. No. Not this time. The red-headed thing: That was an advantage to him. He knew he would find his frauline Willow in time. But if she truly were Buffy's friend, then he owed her a break. Just one. He wasn't completely evil. As the car started again, he watched the red-headed girl walk away from him, a suitcase in hand, looking like she didn't have a friend in all the world.

##

Willow kept her head down, walking quickly and hating the awkward weight of the suitcase. It would have been better if she'd had two. Then she could have balanced one in each hand. She could have gotten a better and more efficient rhythm going in her step. But it seemed over time she traveled lighter and lighter. It had been a long time since she had enough possessions to require two suitcases. So, yes, she was down to the one. And stuck walking like a peg-leg.

Down the street a bit she passed an open-air market. This was not her neighborhood. She wasn't very familiar with this part of town, but she slowed down. And then Xander was magically there beside her, matching her stride.

"Hey there, beautiful," he smiled. His very presence made her finally want to let her guard down and cry. He took the suitcase from her hand, and at last she could walk straight. He took her hand in his and squeezed reassuringly.

"If it's any consolation to you, and it's probably not, Buffy feels really bad about this," Xander said. "Joyce didn't even tell her about it. I did. After you called me."

Willow let the words wash over her. She didn't care. She had more pragmatic issues on her mind. "I should find Jenny. Maybe she's found another place to stay."

Xander shook his head emphatically. "Buffy says no way. It's not safe. Jenny's staying with Giles, and she's scared of the heat. Buffy's trying to get them visas to England." He paused. "She can get one for you, too."

Willow stopped and looked up at him warily. "Is that what you want? You want me to just pick up and go to England?"

Xander let out an exasperated sigh. "Willow, what’s here for you? Why stay?"

Now the tears threatened to come again. How could she explain to him that this was her home, the place where she'd grown up. The place where her parents died five years ago during what the Nazis called Crystal Nacht, but was basically Aryans rioting in the streets, destroying Jewish businesses and turning on their neighbors. She thought again of that spooky Dr. Ehrhart she'd run into at the Opera house the night of the air raid. He'd been her father's business partner, and she suspected to this day he was the reason her father was dead. Jackals and opportunists and cowards. She wanted revenge. She wanted to spite them. For the past five years her complete identity had built around disobedience. She'd transformed into someone entirely different from the girl who hid under the dining room table as neighbors bashed in the windows of her house and dragged her parents away.

Fear was no longer enough pull to get her to go. She wanted to beat these bastards. She wanted to win. She did not want to give up everything. Xander and Buffy were all the family she really had. And she believed too much in her own skills at hacking the Nazi system to really believe the Big Bad would get her. She’d evaded it so long now, it was just part of her life, nothing extraordinary.

Xander saw he was making no headway. "I love you, Willow. I want to know you'll be okay. That's more important than anything else."

She knew he meant it, and he was being sweet. "I know. I'm just not ready to go is all, you know?"

With that, they fell into step again, side by side. "I knew you'd say that," he smiled. "That's why I've already been working on Plan B."

##

Willow wondered what the hell they were doing in such a nice building, climbing floor after floor of a grand circular staircase up and up. She was glad he was the one carrying the suitcase. At last they hit the fifth floor landing, and Xander led her down the hall to a dark and heavy wooden door. He knocked. They stood staring at each other, trying to catch their breath and straining to hear whether anyone was home.

"Where are we?" Willow whispered. Until now she'd let Xander lead her. Now they were both waiting awkwardly in a strange hallway. They could half make out voices through the door--a man and a woman. And they were clearly arguing about something.

"We should go," Willow said, hurriedly.

Xander looked uncomfortable and nodded. "Maybe this wasn't such a good idea."

But then the door swung open suddenly, stopping them both like deer in headlights. A young disheveled woman clutching the throat of her bathrobe was at the door. "Yes?" she impatiently asked. It took Willow a moment to realize this was Tara.

"Who's there?" came the man's voice. That would be Riley. The same nice, dull Riley from last night? Willow had never pegged them for the Bickersons.

"Xa- Xander?" Tara asked, and Willow almost rolled her eyes. Great. The boy had gotten himself wrapped up in a Nazi love triangle. "Why are you here?" Tara asked, impatience winning out over politeness. They were clearly interrupting something.

Willow tugged at Xander's sleeve. "We should go," she implored. But Xander wouldn't budge.

Tara finally saw Willow there. Her face registered surprise. "W- Wilma?" She glanced from one to the other. "What are you doing here? Please, come in."

Xander nudged Willow. "See? I knew I should bring you along."

Inside the door, all three of them were bathed in light from the overhead lamp in the apartment's entryway. Willow could see that Tara had been--what? Crying, maybe? She looked flustered. Tara could see that Xander was carrying a suitcase. The fluster became confusion.

Then Riley was there, hastily buckling the belt of his uniform and tucking in his shirt. He looked red-cheeked as well.

"My, my. Company,” he commented dryly. There was none of the boyish civility of the night before.

"We should go," Willow said for what felt like the tenth time.

Tara and Xander both grabbed for her arms. "No," they said in unison.

##

"Where's Willow?" Buffy swung into the booth across the table from Xander. Her concern was plain. She pulled off her gloves and scarf and ran a hand through her blond hair, which hung loose to her shoulders. Xander had prepared a little thing to say.

"She's safe."

Buffy nodded. "That's good. Safe is definitely good." She paused as if waiting for him to say more. When he didn't her eyebrows shot up. "What? Nothing else?"

Xander nodded. "She's in a safe place, Buffy. She's getting--settled."

"God, I feel so rotten. I can't believe my mom would do something like that without even talking to me first." The house wouldn't seem the same when she went home tonight. "I mean it's Willow. Not some stranger. She's--she's family. I'd do anything for her."

"She's Wilma," Xander said. "And you know she'd do anything for you, too. It has nothing to do with how any of us feel about each other. There's Dawn and your mom to think about."

Buffy waved Helmut for a cup of coffee. "What. You think I don't know that?"

"Of course you do. But this is about us. We got into this. Not them."

Helmut was there with a white cup, pouring the black gold for Buffy, who shook her head deep in thought. "But this is also about Willow. Why isn't she here? She must think she's been totally dumped."

Helmut walked back to the bar contemplating the complexities of young love. It was clear the redhead had lost out this time. He smiled. Willow was a pretty name.

##

Giles turned the key, and the door to his apartment opened to darkness. His heightened senses could detect nothing. He looked down the hall. No one else was about. He shifted the weight of the grocery sack in his arms and ducked inside, pulling the door closed behind him.

With a click, a floor lamp switched on, illuminating Jenny under a cone of soft amber light. She retracted her hand from the switch and remained motionless on the couch, seated upright, like a still-life. It was a little unnerving. Giles realized she must have sat that way in the dark for hours now, since it would have been dusk at about 4 p.m.

"I've brought us a few things. The kitchen was a little lacking," he apologized softly.

Jenny stretched. "It's okay Rupert. Quiet place you have here. The sort of thing you don't notice. Until you have hours of silence to think about it." To Jenny, it had actually felt claustrophobic, coffinlike, completely absent of any outside stimulus. She would have welcomed Allied bombing. Anything but the darkness. It felt as if she were waiting for death.

Giles came and sat beside her on the couch and she reached out a hand, touching his knee reassuringly. He was there and warm and real. He drew her into an embrace that told her she was loved. She allowed herself to sink into it and felt tears melt their way up to the surface. He ran fingers through her hair, feeling that if only he could hold her tight enough it would be all right, that nothing bad could happen to them if only he could squeeze her tight enough. She clung back as if for the last time. It wasn't lost on her that any time could be the last time. She was old enough to not allow herself the luxury of naivete: the kind of blind optimism Willow seemed to have in bucketloads, and Xander and Buffy, too. Giles worshipped them like they were his children. And he was their helpless father who could do nothing for them but pray they had the smarts and luck to stay safe.

No, Jenny didn't have that optimism. All she had was love for this frumpy, fatherly professor who could have returned to England years ago except he loved her more than his own well-being. She worried that had been an incredible mistake. Of course, back then nobody knew how bad this Big Bad would become. Things like that are always clearer in hindsight.

##

Spike sat alone in his apartment, a single light bulb illuminating his armchair. He'd finished the evening paper, cheered to hear that the government thought the current conflict on the eastern Front would be over soon. More reinforcements were on their way at this very moment. More young men to feed the appetite of pure evil. He took a drag on his cigarette and pulled out the two photos he'd been carrying all day in his pocket. He gazed at them for what must have been the hundredth time. The dark one, Jenny, was a lovely woman. Hard to think of her as a criminal or degenerate. There was a bit of a hard edge to her, a knowing. He liked that in his women. They didn't have to be pure as driven snow, though snow wasn't necessarily a bad thing. He gazed at the photo of Willow. That one had a doe-eyed innocence that a Jew girl didn't deserve to have, not this many years into a wholesale ethnic cleansing campaign. She even had a bit of a sense of humor to her smile. A real sweetie, he bet. She'd cry like a schoolgirl when he caught her. He wondered what her most desperate cries might sound like. It gave him warm tinglies.

From the way the snapshots fit together, he figured they were taken the same afternoon, somewhere near a lake, maybe. There was tall grass in the background. Part of being a detective was being able to piece together people's stories. Spike prided himself on taking the time to appreciate the subtleties of human motivation and behavior. He found people inherently interesting. It was his line of work. He was the outsider, an observer, a watcher.

That's where he and Caleb clashed. Their styles couldn't be more different. For example, while Spike was here in his cozy apartment thinking about the hearts of pretty ladies, Caleb was most certainly still out on the street, stalking in his own cruel way. He had that righteous intimidation that all zealots think is their birthright.

##


More to come...


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 Post subject: Re: Night of Broken Glass --New Fic
PostPosted: Mon Sep 24, 2007 10:29 pm 
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32. Kisses and Gay Love
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Location: Kitopia
Hello :)

Still very interesting. :)
But also, of course, frightening. If there was only Spike searching them I would not be so much afraid, but with Calleb...
And now the owner of their Café knows Buffy's AND Willow's name. Not good.
Of course I am stating thing you already know :blush

But this worry me quite seriously.

Then there are things that makes me be all... grrr.
Tara is Riley's fiancée... I don't know why but I feel like it is as a good thing as a bad thing. Like it is a good thing because it is kind of a cover for the outside world you know?
A bad thing because of Willow...
Without forgetting the whole thing "Tara-thinks-Willow-is-Wilma-and-homosexuality-is-punished-the-same-way-than-being-Jew".

Anyway, I truly like this fic... So please keep writing :)

I like also when you show that Nazis and Germans are not the same.. They were all Germans, they weren't all Nazis. And they did not all agree.

Looking forward the next chapter.
It would be nice if Calleb was in a building under a bombardement... Just suggesting of course *innocent*

Friendly,

Julia

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Broken Dolls |The Stadium's Goddesses | Seeds Of Beauty

"Joie est mon caractère, C'est la faute à Voltaire; Misère est mon trousseau, C'est la faute à Rousseau." Gavroche. Victor Hugo, Les Misérables (chap. XV)


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 Post subject: Re: Night of Broken Glass --New Fic
PostPosted: Tue Sep 25, 2007 1:34 am 
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Location: mid-west USA
Still a wonderful story that you are writing. You certainly don't need to apologize if a few inconsisrencies pop up. You are capturing the mood of those times quite nicely.

Julia is corredt when she says not all the Germans were Nazis. The SS, and the power it wielded over normal citizens, made it an organization to be feared. They, of course, were the 'police' of the Nazi state whereas the German Army were the military fighters.

My friends mother-in-law grew up in Berlin during WW11 and her father finally joined the army in 1941 because he thought he might get easier duty if he joined rather than got drafted. he left to go to the Eastern front (Russian Front) and was never heard of again. There Russians massacred captives and civilians and Germans did the same. There was very little quarter shown on either side.


OK, none of this has to do with your story so I'll just shut up. I just want to say I have read about the era and have some knowledge of it and al I can do is praise what you are writing. I also like how you install all the Buffy characters in the story. This is a wonderful read.

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 Post subject: Re: Night of Broken Glass --New Fic
PostPosted: Tue Sep 25, 2007 7:01 pm 
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Hello. A short post tonight...This bit of Part 2 got cut off from my post last night. With so much tension in the story, it feels like time for a bit of sweet interaction between our girls....



Night of Broken Glass--PART2a

By Junecleavage



Rating: NC-17 for explicit sex and violence. There’s character death and a lot of close calls.

Feedback: Yes, please. This is my first published fanfic ever, so feel free to comment!

Uber setting: It’s 1943 Berlin, and the Nazis are the Big Bad

Summary: Inspired by the great biography of Aimee & Jaguar. In Nazi Germany, Willow Rosenberg pretends to be a non-Jew in order to survive (with the help of Xander and Buffy). She gets herself on the Gestapo’s hit list and meets and falls in love with Tara, a woman whose family are Nazi supporters. Lots of Buffyverse characters are here. I do not claim to be an expert on WWII, German military or Germany for that matter, but I did use Wikipedia a lot.



Part 2a



The door to the apartment had closed behind Xander, and the silence hit them as Tara and Willow turned to face each other. They could barely meet each other's eyes. But then Willow didn't want to seem to be staring at Tara's bathrobe either. It was a nice robe, soft and of light material, like it was made to go over some lovely nightgown. It had been a long time since Willow had seen such a thing. Her mother had had some nice pajamas. Willow herself had only the slip she wore under her dress.

"Uh, Xander was a little out of line. You don't really have to take me in. I have my own income and I'm sure I could find a perfectly nice place to stay. I just haven't had a chance yet. I only just today learned that I wouldn't be able to stay with our friend Buffy's family while I took time to look for a new place. That hit me as a bit of a surprise, I have to say, or, more exactly, like a kick to the gut, but I'm really not looking for a hand-out. I don't want to bother you. You-you have your own place. Your own routine, and I bet if you wanted someone staying with you, you already would have had a roommate. So I understand. Really I do." Willow looked around helplessly. "But maybe I could stay here, um, tonight? I mean it's pretty late, and I'm really sorry to inconvenience you. Xander didn't tell me what he was up to--or where he was taking me. I- I think I'm as surprised and confused as you are. Uh, and it's late and all. I mean if it's an inconvenience, I could probably find a place to sleep at the newspaper office. I think there's even a shower there. And they keep coffee there. And I think Gruber also has some scotch, which I've got to say sounds pretty darn good right now. Al-Although I don’t want you thinking I’m a total lush, what with the champagne and now the bit about the scotch. Of course it’s not like anybody could really blame a person these days for wanting to blot out reality. Though I’m not a blotter…or blotto. No, definitely not blotto. Except the other night and that’s because I’m a lightweight. And, speaking of the other night, I, uh, didn’t do or say anything inappropriate, did I?"

Why did Tara keep looking at her that way? Why didn't she say something to stop her? To stop this stream of words that kept tumbling out in a nervous cascade. This was all too unnerving. To break the tension, Willow turned and strode over to the couch to fetch her suitcase. “I’d better go.” She grabbed her overcoat and scarf.

Tara finally spoke. "My brother's room is right down the hall. You could stay there," she said.

"For tonight," Willow said, nodding. "I'll clear out in the morning. You'll hardly know I'm here."

Tara sighed. "You can stay," she said, simply. It had been a hard day and she just wasn't capable of much more energy, but it was true: She wanted Willow to stay, and not just for one night. "I've been lo- lonely. It would be nice to have someone to- to talk to."

Tara felt herself warm as the nervousness left Willow's face, replaced by about the most beautiful and open smile she believed humanly possible. The relief was palpably rolling off Willow in waves. And in its emotional deluge there was also some excitement. Tara let it swirl around her in eddies and felt herself buoyed.

"And I h- have scotch, too," Tara said shyly. "So you don't need to go all the way back to the newspaper office to have some." She paused. "Unless you want to."

She took Willow's coat and hat. "Sounds like we've both had a hard day. Let me get you a glass."

Willow wordlessly followed Tara down the hall. They passed the first bedroom with its rumpled bedclothes thrown wide and pillows strewn on the floor as if Riley and Tara had had a real tussle in there. The sight gave Willow a weird thought that maybe the impassioned yelling hadn't so much been yelling at all as something, well, more passionate. It gave Willow a strange blow low in her belly to think of it. She averted her gaze to Tara's back and followed her down to the next room. This one was a bit larger. The bed was neatly made with a dark red coverlet taut across it. The bureau was tall and held simple man-things: a shaving kit, a small beveled mirror in an adjustable frame, a family photo of a much younger Tara and a boy she presumed was the brother laughing and holding a golden retriever. God, even the dog looked Aryan. Tara opened the top two drawers and pulled out her brother's things, making room for Willow's.

"You- you don't think he'll mind, you know, some stranger staying here?" she asked in a voice that sounded small and uncertain even to her own ears.

Tara gave her an impassive look and then softened. "He's been out on the Front a long time. Got a letter from him last week. I don't think he'll be back any time soon. She pulled back the covers from the bed and fluffed up the pillows. "Besides, it would probably give him a charge to think that a pretty girl was sleeping in his bed while he's gone."

"You know, if it makes him happier with the arrangement, I can sleep naked," Willow said and then mentally kicked herself.

Tara giggled and grabbed Willow's hand, leading her back to the parlour and seating her on the couch. "Just a minute," she said, making it clear Willow was to go nowhere. So she stayed put. Tara returned shortly with a bottle of scotch and two glasses. She set them down on a small table and poured them both a generous drink. Willow really wanted that drink.

Their fingers brushed as Tara handed her the glass, and Willow's heart jolted just like it had the night before when in the space of a few casual touches, she somehow had managed to memorize the entirety of Tara's hand. She looked up to find Tara gazing back at her funny. Had she felt that, too? The other woman smiled and tipped back her head, blond hair falling down her back as she swallowed the liquor. She set the empty glass on the table. Her eyes encouraged Willow to follow.

Willow held her glass a moment longer, letting the scotch swirl around, coating the sides a bit. She was afraid to meet Tara's gaze. With a breath, she put the glass to her lips, tilted back and let the scotch slide down, hot, warming Willow's body from chest to extremities in the fraction of a second it took the aftertaste of the liquor to reach her tongue. She felt a sensual wave engulf her as she steadied the glass on the tabletop. Tara was watching her, a smile tugging at the corners of her mouth, and Willow realized she knew exactly what Tara's mouth would taste like. And wanted to know what that mouth would feel like against her liquor-fired tongue.

Wow. Usually when Willow drank, she found herself loose-lipped, but not like this, as in literally wanting to loosen her lips. Her mouth slackened. Tara said nothing, just smiled and lifted an eyebrow in a silent invitation for another shot. Willow felt herself nodding, wanting nothing more than to sink further into this warm oblivion where the only sound was the ticking grandfather clock and Willow's own breathing and the pounding of blood in her ears. She leaned back into the pillows of the couch and watched Tara pour. Her gaze flicked over the crescent of pale skin visible at the throat of Tara's robe, which had fallen open slightly since she'd stopped clutching it closed. That same otherworldly smoothness of her skin caught the light and shimmered like it had last night. And suddenly Tara was every bit the goddess Willow had seen at their first meeting.

The second shot of scotch went straight to Willow's thighs, which felt rubbery and tingly. She wasn't sure she could walk. She was sure she didn't want to. Those deep-ocean eyes regarded her, half-lidded, from where Tara was curled on the opposite couch. The physical distance felt like nothing, like a sigh. Willow was sure her mouth was unable to form words, which is really saying something.

At last Tara stood and extended her hand to Willow, who rested a moment longer before gently taking it in hers, testing the warmth and fit of it. She rose wordlessly to her feet and followed Tara down the hallway, past the first bedroom. Again, the strewn sheets and pillows, again the flutter low in Willow's belly, this time accompanied by a mental image of Tara semi-naked lying there, and Willow was standing in Riley's place. Or was it Willow who was naked and Tara gazing down at her? The flutter was followed by a kick. Wow. Down girl. She tore her gaze away from the dirty linens and found Tara looking back at her. Willow didn't know Tara well enough to read her expression, but one might have described it as curious. At the second doorway, Tara stopped. The lights were off.

"Uh, guess this is where I get off," Willow joked, and then realized she was only half-joking and cleared her throat. Her entire body was tingling. She'd never exactly felt this way before--at least not from wanting another woman. Or anyone else, truth be told. She wanted to pull Tara into an embrace, to learn her scent, to chart not only the shape of her hand but also the rest of her, to physically join. But they were strangers. Strangers throwing some sparks, But strangers, still.

Even in the darkness, Willow could see the pink flush across Tara's cheeks. They stood close, connected by hand. As if she only just noticed that fact, Tara let go, and Willow felt something she hadn't noticed earlier as her hand slipped down Tara's fingertips.

"A ring?" Willow heard herself say. Tara hadn't been wearing one when they’d met.

Tara's expression changed, as if she'd only just remembered it herself. "Oh," she said. "We, uh, got engaged today."

"Oh," Willow replied, trying to keep the strangeness out of her voice. "Congratulations." It was what you say to little announcements like that. Even confusing little announcements. Willow turned to her new room. "A big day," she said, nodding. "And more tomorrow."

It was a weird good-night, but it was the best she could manage. Her feelings clashed with all the messiness and jumble of the eastern Front.

"Wilma, good night."

Another jolt, and not in a good way. Willow turned and slipped through the doorway. And as she slipped out of her clothes and in between cold sheets that smelled like Tara's brother, Willow realized that this, too, was a place that could never be home to her. She rolled onto her side, missing Buffy and Dawn's warmth--and the warmth of Jenny from before that. Tonight, she lay in the cold bed of a stranger, in a room with unfamiliar shadows and unfamiliar things, nursing an unfamiliar arousal for a woman she'd only just met and who didn't even know Willow's name. And then there was a little surprise of jealousy she knew she had no right to feel. As always, she was a day late, a dollar short and a pound too Jewish. The warmth of the liquor was long gone.


##


Tara retreated to her room, leaving the lights off. She picked up the pillows and threw them on the bed, dropped the robe from her shoulders and climbed in naked, dragging the covers up over her. Her body was on fire. All she'd wanted all day today was sex. She ached for want of passionate consummation. But Riley had resisted. She couldn't understand why, after he’d given her his ring. Was he that much of a prude? She'd neglected to get dressed all day. She'd let the fabric of her robe fall open for him, but he wouldn't move. So driven by the fuel of all the frustration that had built up inside her so long made her bold. She took his hand and brought it to the warmth of her breast. He'd moaned, his eyes registering want and pain. He even kneaded the tender flesh there, and then he withdrew with a simple, "Tara, I can't right now. The time isn't right. I’ve got to go. I love you, but I can’t do this right now."

What did the ring mean, and why did he give it to her if he didn’t intend to for their relationship to, well, escalate? Was it that he believed in waiting until marriage? If so, he’d never mentioned that before. Was it was the war? Was he scared and sad and needed to steel himself for unspeakable horrors to come and against unspeakable horrors past? A long scar across his forehead and cheek only barely hinted at the things young Riley Finn had endured in his five years of military service. Or was it weirdness from his childhood before that? There were so many experiences that shaped a person. But what kind of thing had he been shaped into?

Tara wanted to be his anchor, but it was hard, because she wasn't an inanimate thing or a marble statue or whatever else he needed her to be. What the hell was wrong? The longer she thought about it, the more angry and agitated she became. Her face had flushed red with humiliation, and she'd taken his hands again, but he stilled them, refusing to meet her eyes.

This infuriating game made her ache and rage. She had implored him verbally to take her with a directness and ferocity she didn't know she was capable of. She’d pushed him down, and he’d evaded her advances. How hard could this be? But he wouldn’t be moved. She’d gotten up and stalked angrily around the apartment. She had yelled at him, and he at her. She had cried in frustration. And then, just at the height of the insanity, there was the knock upon the door. And then Xander was there, toting a very uncomfortable Wilma Hermann with him. And Riley got off the hook. He donned his uniform, gave her a sweet and sorry kiss, and left.

Lying here in the dark she thought how strange it was that the girl sleeping down the hall from Tara right now had hungrier eyes for her than her own fiancé had. Looking up at the ceiling she thought about that and felt her heart quicken. It was a curious feeling, one that surprised her and did nothing to abate the sexual frustration she felt. In fact, in some way it made it worse. She felt her cheeks flush recalling the spark of electricity she’d experienced watching the woman’s gaze relax and linger on Tara tonight as the Scotch worked its magic, draining away the awkwardness and leaving in its wake a pointed tenderness. Was it longing?

And if it were, shouldn’t Tara feel more uncomfortable about that? But uncomfortable was not what she felt at all. She felt a lightness and tingling, and she pulled one of the pillows under her, shifting and wrapping herself around it. She should feel scared, but there was nothing about Wilma Hermann that frightened her—only intrigued her. She should feel scared for her safety, because thoughts and feelings like this—between two women—were a dangerous thing. But all the “shoulds” just hung there in the blackness around her as if written in chalk, innocent and erasable.

Then she thought about the letter in her robe pocket, the one she’d written and meant to send to the newspaper office today but hadn’t. It had been a letter inviting Wilma over for tea and a walk to the park. She’d wanted to get to know Wilma better, to see what she looked like in daylight, in everyday settings. She imagined sunlight glinting off red hair, stream-of-consciousness soliloquies and that animated energy that Tara had seen the other night. To Tara, here in winter in wartime, there was no one who seemed to be more alive.

And then, tonight, as if answering a prayer, Xander had delivered Wilma to her. To stay.


More to come in Part 3


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 Post subject: Re: Night of Broken Glass --New Fic
PostPosted: Tue Sep 25, 2007 7:02 pm 
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2. Floating Rose
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Hello. A short post tonight...This bit of Part 2 got cut off from my post last night. With so much tension in the story, it feels like time for a bit of sweet interaction between our girls....



Night of Broken Glass--PART2a

By Junecleavage



Rating: NC-17 for explicit sex and violence. There’s character death and a lot of close calls.

Feedback: Yes, please. This is my first published fanfic ever, so feel free to comment!

Uber setting: It’s 1943 Berlin, and the Nazis are the Big Bad

Summary: Inspired by the great biography of Aimee & Jaguar. In Nazi Germany, Willow Rosenberg pretends to be a non-Jew in order to survive (with the help of Xander and Buffy). She gets herself on the Gestapo’s hit list and meets and falls in love with Tara, a woman whose family are Nazi supporters. Lots of Buffyverse characters are here. I do not claim to be an expert on WWII, German military or Germany for that matter, but I did use Wikipedia a lot.



Part 2a



The door to the apartment had closed behind Xander, and the silence hit them as Tara and Willow turned to face each other. They could barely meet each other's eyes. But then Willow didn't want to seem to be staring at Tara's bathrobe either. It was a nice robe, soft and of light material, like it was made to go over some lovely nightgown. It had been a long time since Willow had seen such a thing. Her mother had had some nice pajamas. Willow herself had only the slip she wore under her dress.

"Uh, Xander was a little out of line. You don't really have to take me in. I have my own income and I'm sure I could find a perfectly nice place to stay. I just haven't had a chance yet. I only just today learned that I wouldn't be able to stay with our friend Buffy's family while I took time to look for a new place. That hit me as a bit of a surprise, I have to say, or, more exactly, like a kick to the gut, but I'm really not looking for a hand-out. I don't want to bother you. You-you have your own place. Your own routine, and I bet if you wanted someone staying with you, you already would have had a roommate. So I understand. Really I do." Willow looked around helplessly. "But maybe I could stay here, um, tonight? I mean it's pretty late, and I'm really sorry to inconvenience you. Xander didn't tell me what he was up to--or where he was taking me. I- I think I'm as surprised and confused as you are. Uh, and it's late and all. I mean if it's an inconvenience, I could probably find a place to sleep at the newspaper office. I think there's even a shower there. And they keep coffee there. And I think Gruber also has some scotch, which I've got to say sounds pretty darn good right now. Al-Although I don’t want you thinking I’m a total lush, what with the champagne and now the bit about the scotch. Of course it’s not like anybody could really blame a person these days for wanting to blot out reality. Though I’m not a blotter…or blotto. No, definitely not blotto. Except the other night and that’s because I’m a lightweight. And, speaking of the other night, I, uh, didn’t do or say anything inappropriate, did I?"

Why did Tara keep looking at her that way? Why didn't she say something to stop her? To stop this stream of words that kept tumbling out in a nervous cascade. This was all too unnerving. To break the tension, Willow turned and strode over to the couch to fetch her suitcase. “I’d better go.” She grabbed her overcoat and scarf.

Tara finally spoke. "My brother's room is right down the hall. You could stay there," she said.

"For tonight," Willow said, nodding. "I'll clear out in the morning. You'll hardly know I'm here."

Tara sighed. "You can stay," she said, simply. It had been a hard day and she just wasn't capable of much more energy, but it was true: She wanted Willow to stay, and not just for one night. "I've been lo- lonely. It would be nice to have someone to- to talk to."

Tara felt herself warm as the nervousness left Willow's face, replaced by about the most beautiful and open smile she believed humanly possible. The relief was palpably rolling off Willow in waves. And in its emotional deluge there was also some excitement. Tara let it swirl around her in eddies and felt herself buoyed.

"And I h- have scotch, too," Tara said shyly. "So you don't need to go all the way back to the newspaper office to have some." She paused. "Unless you want to."

She took Willow's coat and hat. "Sounds like we've both had a hard day. Let me get you a glass."

Willow wordlessly followed Tara down the hall. They passed the first bedroom with its rumpled bedclothes thrown wide and pillows strewn on the floor as if Riley and Tara had had a real tussle in there. The sight gave Willow a weird thought that maybe the impassioned yelling hadn't so much been yelling at all as something, well, more passionate. It gave Willow a strange blow low in her belly to think of it. She averted her gaze to Tara's back and followed her down to the next room. This one was a bit larger. The bed was neatly made with a dark red coverlet taut across it. The bureau was tall and held simple man-things: a shaving kit, a small beveled mirror in an adjustable frame, a family photo of a much younger Tara and a boy she presumed was the brother laughing and holding a golden retriever. God, even the dog looked Aryan. Tara opened the top two drawers and pulled out her brother's things, making room for Willow's.

"You- you don't think he'll mind, you know, some stranger staying here?" she asked in a voice that sounded small and uncertain even to her own ears.

Tara gave her an impassive look and then softened. "He's been out on the Front a long time. Got a letter from him last week. I don't think he'll be back any time soon. She pulled back the covers from the bed and fluffed up the pillows. "Besides, it would probably give him a charge to think that a pretty girl was sleeping in his bed while he's gone."

"You know, if it makes him happier with the arrangement, I can sleep naked," Willow said and then mentally kicked herself.

Tara giggled and grabbed Willow's hand, leading her back to the parlour and seating her on the couch. "Just a minute," she said, making it clear Willow was to go nowhere. So she stayed put. Tara returned shortly with a bottle of scotch and two glasses. She set them down on a small table and poured them both a generous drink. Willow really wanted that drink.

Their fingers brushed as Tara handed her the glass, and Willow's heart jolted just like it had the night before when in the space of a few casual touches, she somehow had managed to memorize the entirety of Tara's hand. She looked up to find Tara gazing back at her funny. Had she felt that, too? The other woman smiled and tipped back her head, blond hair falling down her back as she swallowed the liquor. She set the empty glass on the table. Her eyes encouraged Willow to follow.

Willow held her glass a moment longer, letting the scotch swirl around, coating the sides a bit. She was afraid to meet Tara's gaze. With a breath, she put the glass to her lips, tilted back and let the scotch slide down, hot, warming Willow's body from chest to extremities in the fraction of a second it took the aftertaste of the liquor to reach her tongue. She felt a sensual wave engulf her as she steadied the glass on the tabletop. Tara was watching her, a smile tugging at the corners of her mouth, and Willow realized she knew exactly what Tara's mouth would taste like. And wanted to know what that mouth would feel like against her liquor-fired tongue.

Wow. Usually when Willow drank, she found herself loose-lipped, but not like this, as in literally wanting to loosen her lips. Her mouth slackened. Tara said nothing, just smiled and lifted an eyebrow in a silent invitation for another shot. Willow felt herself nodding, wanting nothing more than to sink further into this warm oblivion where the only sound was the ticking grandfather clock and Willow's own breathing and the pounding of blood in her ears. She leaned back into the pillows of the couch and watched Tara pour. Her gaze flicked over the crescent of pale skin visible at the throat of Tara's robe, which had fallen open slightly since she'd stopped clutching it closed. That same otherworldly smoothness of her skin caught the light and shimmered like it had last night. And suddenly Tara was every bit the goddess Willow had seen at their first meeting.

The second shot of scotch went straight to Willow's thighs, which felt rubbery and tingly. She wasn't sure she could walk. She was sure she didn't want to. Those deep-ocean eyes regarded her, half-lidded, from where Tara was curled on the opposite couch. The physical distance felt like nothing, like a sigh. Willow was sure her mouth was unable to form words, which is really saying something.

At last Tara stood and extended her hand to Willow, who rested a moment longer before gently taking it in hers, testing the warmth and fit of it. She rose wordlessly to her feet and followed Tara down the hallway, past the first bedroom. Again, the strewn sheets and pillows, again the flutter low in Willow's belly, this time accompanied by a mental image of Tara semi-naked lying there, and Willow was standing in Riley's place. Or was it Willow who was naked and Tara gazing down at her? The flutter was followed by a kick. Wow. Down girl. She tore her gaze away from the dirty linens and found Tara looking back at her. Willow didn't know Tara well enough to read her expression, but one might have described it as curious. At the second doorway, Tara stopped. The lights were off.

"Uh, guess this is where I get off," Willow joked, and then realized she was only half-joking and cleared her throat. Her entire body was tingling. She'd never exactly felt this way before--at least not from wanting another woman. Or anyone else, truth be told. She wanted to pull Tara into an embrace, to learn her scent, to chart not only the shape of her hand but also the rest of her, to physically join. But they were strangers. Strangers throwing some sparks, But strangers, still.

Even in the darkness, Willow could see the pink flush across Tara's cheeks. They stood close, connected by hand. As if she only just noticed that fact, Tara let go, and Willow felt something she hadn't noticed earlier as her hand slipped down Tara's fingertips.

"A ring?" Willow heard herself say. Tara hadn't been wearing one when they’d met.

Tara's expression changed, as if she'd only just remembered it herself. "Oh," she said. "We, uh, got engaged today."

"Oh," Willow replied, trying to keep the strangeness out of her voice. "Congratulations." It was what you say to little announcements like that. Even confusing little announcements. Willow turned to her new room. "A big day," she said, nodding. "And more tomorrow."

It was a weird good-night, but it was the best she could manage. Her feelings clashed with all the messiness and jumble of the eastern Front.

"Wilma, good night."

Another jolt, and not in a good way. Willow turned and slipped through the doorway. And as she slipped out of her clothes and in between cold sheets that smelled like Tara's brother, Willow realized that this, too, was a place that could never be home to her. She rolled onto her side, missing Buffy and Dawn's warmth--and the warmth of Jenny from before that. Tonight, she lay in the cold bed of a stranger, in a room with unfamiliar shadows and unfamiliar things, nursing an unfamiliar arousal for a woman she'd only just met and who didn't even know Willow's name. And then there was a little surprise of jealousy she knew she had no right to feel. As always, she was a day late, a dollar short and a pound too Jewish. The warmth of the liquor was long gone.


##


Tara retreated to her room, leaving the lights off. She picked up the pillows and threw them on the bed, dropped the robe from her shoulders and climbed in naked, dragging the covers up over her. Her body was on fire. All she'd wanted all day today was sex. She ached for want of passionate consummation. But Riley had resisted. She couldn't understand why, after he’d given her his ring. Was he that much of a prude? She'd neglected to get dressed all day. She'd let the fabric of her robe fall open for him, but he wouldn't move. So driven by the fuel of all the frustration that had built up inside her so long made her bold. She took his hand and brought it to the warmth of her breast. He'd moaned, his eyes registering want and pain. He even kneaded the tender flesh there, and then he withdrew with a simple, "Tara, I can't right now. The time isn't right. I’ve got to go. I love you, but I can’t do this right now."

What did the ring mean, and why did he give it to her if he didn’t intend to for their relationship to, well, escalate? Was it that he believed in waiting until marriage? If so, he’d never mentioned that before. Was it was the war? Was he scared and sad and needed to steel himself for unspeakable horrors to come and against unspeakable horrors past? A long scar across his forehead and cheek only barely hinted at the things young Riley Finn had endured in his five years of military service. Or was it weirdness from his childhood before that? There were so many experiences that shaped a person. But what kind of thing had he been shaped into?

Tara wanted to be his anchor, but it was hard, because she wasn't an inanimate thing or a marble statue or whatever else he needed her to be. What the hell was wrong? The longer she thought about it, the more angry and agitated she became. Her face had flushed red with humiliation, and she'd taken his hands again, but he stilled them, refusing to meet her eyes.

This infuriating game made her ache and rage. She had implored him verbally to take her with a directness and ferocity she didn't know she was capable of. She’d pushed him down, and he’d evaded her advances. How hard could this be? But he wouldn’t be moved. She’d gotten up and stalked angrily around the apartment. She had yelled at him, and he at her. She had cried in frustration. And then, just at the height of the insanity, there was the knock upon the door. And then Xander was there, toting a very uncomfortable Wilma Hermann with him. And Riley got off the hook. He donned his uniform, gave her a sweet and sorry kiss, and left.

Lying here in the dark she thought how strange it was that the girl sleeping down the hall from Tara right now had hungrier eyes for her than her own fiancé had. Looking up at the ceiling she thought about that and felt her heart quicken. It was a curious feeling, one that surprised her and did nothing to abate the sexual frustration she felt. In fact, in some way it made it worse. She felt her cheeks flush recalling the spark of electricity she’d experienced watching the woman’s gaze relax and linger on Tara tonight as the Scotch worked its magic, draining away the awkwardness and leaving in its wake a pointed tenderness. Was it longing?

And if it were, shouldn’t Tara feel more uncomfortable about that? But uncomfortable was not what she felt at all. She felt a lightness and tingling, and she pulled one of the pillows under her, shifting and wrapping herself around it. She should feel scared, but there was nothing about Wilma Hermann that frightened her—only intrigued her. She should feel scared for her safety, because thoughts and feelings like this—between two women—were a dangerous thing. But all the “shoulds” just hung there in the blackness around her as if written in chalk, innocent and erasable.

Then she thought about the letter in her robe pocket, the one she’d written and meant to send to the newspaper office today but hadn’t. It had been a letter inviting Wilma over for tea and a walk to the park. She’d wanted to get to know Wilma better, to see what she looked like in daylight, in everyday settings. She imagined sunlight glinting off red hair, stream-of-consciousness soliloquies and that animated energy that Tara had seen the other night. To Tara, here in winter in wartime, there was no one who seemed to be more alive.

And then, tonight, as if answering a prayer, Xander had delivered Wilma to her. To stay.


More to come in Part 3


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 Post subject: Re: Night of Broken Glass --New Fic
PostPosted: Tue Sep 25, 2007 7:10 pm 
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Ms. Moderator Fantastico
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dear god woman that is full of tension and angst keep it coming I like it . :kitty

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 Post subject: Re: Night of Broken Glass --New Fic
PostPosted: Wed Sep 26, 2007 5:12 am 
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Great story so far. More soon pleaase :pray

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 Post subject: Re: Night of Broken Glass --New Fic
PostPosted: Wed Sep 26, 2007 4:31 pm 
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2. Floating Rose
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Joined: Sun Apr 24, 2005 6:51 pm
Posts: 39
Location: South America
I've been reading your story on the looking glass, I just noticed you had it up on this board too! I must admit that I don't know if I would've left feedback otherwise... It might be silly, but I would feel I'm imposing on you by sending an email to a personal account of yours.

I have to say I love the way you've worked all the characters into this particular setting and the parallels you draw between the way the show worked, the big bad, the gang, even Spike's role, evil yet somewhat of an ally, and this universe, which is none other than our own universe. It seems amazing, sometimes, that all this took place no more than sixty years ago.

I'm not a specialist when it comes to history, I have little more than the basics everyone knows, so I won't enter the debate of details and specifics. All I can add is that, from the POV of an uneducated reader, it all seems acqurate.

A small comment that struck me particularly was about Willow finding comfort in the almost mathematic workings of grammar. First, because it was something very relateable, everyone in such a situation would have some kind of an escape from it, least they go insane. Besides, again I saw it as a very subtle parallel with the show, altough now that I think about it, maybe it was simply great characterization. And finally, the idea itself of german grammar being almost mathematical... maybe because I'm learning right now, but I found it incredibly funny, even! :D

To sum up, I think your story is great. I'm really glad you've decided to post it and I'll be looking foward to your updates!

Viele Grüße,
Ana ;)

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Ich bin für Liebe, ich bin für die die's lieben zu leben; ich bin für die, die Liebe geben auch wenns schwer ist im Leben.
- Curse, "Widerstand"


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 Post subject: Re: Night of Broken Glass --New Fic
PostPosted: Wed Sep 26, 2007 10:27 pm 
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2. Floating Rose
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Joined: Fri Sep 21, 2007 8:23 pm
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Location: Portland, Oregon
Night of Broken Glass--PART3

By Junecleavage



Rating: NC-17 for explicit sex and violence. There’s character death and a lot of close calls.

Feedback: Yes, please. This is my first published fanfic ever, so feel free to comment!

Uber setting: It’s 1943 Berlin, and the Nazis are the Big Bad

Summary: Inspired by the great biography of Aimee & Jaguar. In Nazi Germany, Willow Rosenberg pretends to be a non-Jew in order to survive (with the help of Xander and Buffy). She gets herself on the Gestapo’s hit list and meets and falls in love with Tara, a woman whose family are Nazi supporters. Lots of Buffyverse characters are here. I do not claim to be an expert on WWII, German military or Germany for that matter, but I did use Wikipedia a lot.



Part 3

Running. That's what Spike always liked. It gave him a real charge. Caleb was right there with him. They both stood planted in place, impassively, as the dark-haired woman ran. Spike raised his gun and shot her. She crumpled to the ground and lay still. So animated and alive one moment and so still and dead the next.

There were a few workaday people milling about the street. It was midday, and life went on around them, pretending that two detectives had not, in fact, just gunned down a neighbor. Of course, they didn't want to know about it. So callous and scared they'd become since Crystal Nacht, when neighbors turned against neighbors, the hatred of Jews and anyone else who fouled the gene pool bubbling up to the hideous surface. Since then the Good Germans preferred to have agents of the government do their dirty work, and so people like Spike and Caleb had jobs.

Caleb was standing over the woman now, tentatively testing her with the toe of his boot. His gun was still drawn, as if she might rise from the dead and plant fangs in his throat. Nope. That one was going nowhere. Spike turned his attention to the man. 50-ish, hair graying at the temples. Bookish glasses broken on the pavement. A dark pool of blood spreading across the tweed coat and collecting under him. He looked like a dead librarian.

The detectives had stopped the pair. The woman fit the description of their fugitive Jenny. Dark hair, smart, defiant eyes. Caleb had asked to see the couple's I.D. The pair of them fumbled in their clothes a moment mumbling unconvincingly. Then the man yelled at the woman to run. Spike had shot him dead on the spot. And then, for a bit of fun, they let the woman run, though not too far. The sound of the shot reverberated among the tall buildings, bouncing off the stone at odd angles, distorting like multi-toned chimes or brittle glass. And then the silence. There was always silence that followed.

Spike found that his own heart was beating faster as Caleb approached with something in his hand from the dead woman's coat pocket. Each step closer curiously filled Spike with hope and dread. Caleb just shook his head. "It's not her." He tossed Spike the papers he'd fished from the woman's coat. "But good news is we put a bullet in another fucking Jew. So, all in all, not a bad morning, if I do say. What about him, there?"

Spike realized that the papers Caleb had handed him were travel visas, and by the handiwork, he knew them to be his own special forgeries. His guts went cold. That meant that Buffy had given the woman these papers. His head snapped to the man lying dead at his feet. He bent down and rolled the body over onto its side and reached inside the coat pockets. Presently he withdrew the man's identification. He flipped it open.

"A Rupert Giles," Spike spoke as if announcing the man for dinner. His voice trailed off: "University professor...and a British expat." Spike wiped sweat from his own brow and felt the dread seep into his bones. Buffy was a student at the university. Damn her! Now their worlds were beginning to collide. He'd told her to be careful. He'd warned her about this.

Caleb kicked the dead man. "A good Brit's a dead Brit." He lit a cigarette. "Come on, William," he bade Spike. "No one will miss this bastard."

Spike rose to his feet and chuckled. "Well, except maybe a few students. I wonder how long they'll wait in class for him this afternoon?" The words were Spike's, but somehow to his own ears they didn't seem very funny.

Caleb led the way down the street and Spike followed. They'd have a crew from the office come out to pick up the bodies. Caleb let out a long stream of smoke that colored the winter air bluish white. "We should check out the university. If the former Mr. Giles is a Jewish sympathizer, as it would appear, then we just may hit a little jackpot.”

Spike frowned. He knew how much Caleb liked hitting little jackpots.

##

The apartment was dark again. Jenny had watched it slip from light to black every night now for almost two weeks. This day had been no different. Rupert had a fine collection of books here, and she'd whiled away the hours reading and staying quiet as a church-mouse, lest the neighbors hear her and know that he had someone living with him.

Living. What kind of word was that for what she was doing? She couldn't live with Rupert. Only stay for a bit. Until her travel visa came through and then she'd head for England, where he'd shortly join her. All of these days while she stayed put, she knew it was just a matter of time until the authorities found her. They always caught up to people. She'd seen too many of her friends and family disappear to doubt it. It was just a game of timing now. Would she win?

Today Giles had gone to pick up her visa. It was too dangerous for her to be out and about, but he could do it, and it was the sort of thing he did for his students and friends all the time. But as the shadows grew and it became later and later she wondered why he hadn't returned yet, and she worried. It was too dark to read. And she couldn't smoke. And they'd consumed all the wine in the house. All she could do was sit as patiently as possible and wait for him.

And wait. And wait. It was growing later than it ever had and still no Giles. She trained her ears for footsteps on the stairs. One by one, the neighbors had all come home from work. But still no Giles. The barest tendrils of fear began to rise like weeds around her heart. She thought she might be sick, except she hadn't eaten anything since this morning.

The blackness drew in around her, tight like a blanket, and claustrophobic. Jenny sat still, concentrating just on breathing.

Then there was the sound of footsteps on the stairs. She strained her hearing. The sound of keys jangling and then in the lock. Jenny held her breath, every muscle flexing, imagining this could go one of two ways: good or bad, and that was about it. The key turned in the lock and then the door swung open slowly. And in the silhouette of the hall light, she could see it was not Giles.

"Jenny?" the voice was a strangled whisper. It was Buffy. Jenny rose to her feet and walked to the door silently. If nothing in these past two weeks she'd learned the art of silence. Buffy startled when she saw Jenny emerge from the blackness. Jenny waited.

"Are you alone?" Buffy asked.

"Are you?" Jenny replied.

"Yes."

Jenny pulled Buffy by the arm into the apartment and closed the door. The two of them were enveloped in darkness. They stood still, Buffy catching her breath from running up the stairs.

"Jenny," she said with wavering voice, "I- I have bad news..."

Jenny nodded, though of course Buffy couldn't see her. This was all harder without body language.

"Jenny, it's Giles."

Buffy didn't really need to say any more. The details were irrelevant at this point. She felt fear and anger rise up in her like a bubbling cauldron. Jenny kept nodding into the darkness. And nodding. "I know," she said softly. "I could feel it." And as soon as she said them she knew the words were true. She pulled Buffy into her arms and gave her comfort, much in the way Giles might have if one of his favorite students were faced with the same terrible news. And Rupert had loved Buffy above all others. She was like a daughter to him--someone brave and just and focused on the greater good, just as he was. He had been a great teacher. Buffy was no star pupil. But she belonged to him just as much as his soul. Of course it would be Buffy who came to give her the news.

Buffy dug her hands into Jenny's shirt, burying her face in Jenny's shoulder, and allowed herself to bitterly cry. Lost. They were all becoming so lost right now. Their lives like icebergs separating into the open ocean. Everything was changing, and time was against them. Dizzy, disorienting. They clutched each other in a search for some steadiness.

A racket outside the apartment drew their attention. It sounded like people stomping up the stairs. Buffy stiffened in Jenny's arms. "Shit!" the girl hissed. "We've got to go."

Jenny knew it, too. If Giles were dead at the hands of he police, then all roads would lead back here, to his apartment. And to Jenny. Buffy knew that; she had just banked on having enough time to get here and get Jenny out. Jenny knew what to do. She'd had two weeks to work out her escape plan.

"This way," she whispered, taking Buffy's hand and leading her as a blind person would, around the furniture-shaped hazards of the apartment, toward the kitchen, where a small window opened out onto the roof. With a shove she lifted he sash, sending in a burst of cold air. The stomping in the hall grew closer. It sounded like they had dogs with them. Buffy and Jenny wiped the dishes off the counter in their haste to escape. They clashed to the floor and shattered. The dogs barked and whined at the apartment door, excited that their cornered prey were so close. Jenny pushed Buffy up and through the small window. The girl turned and clasped Jenny's hand and pulled her after.

They both fell to the rooftop below, rolling heavily together. Above them they could hear the splintering of wood and shouted voices. Jenny climbed to her feet and pointed to the far side of the rooftop, where the iron ladder of an old fire escape beckoned. Jenny's body felt funny and disconnected from her brain as they ran. It felt like it took a lifetime for them to traverse the rooftop to the ladder, the angry voices drifting out over them on the wind. She pushed Buffy. "Go!" she said. "You first."

Buffy whirled around on her. "No. You're the one they're after. Get going."

Jenny laughed. "Come on, Buffy. You have your whole life ahead of you. And I'm a dead woman."

"I can't believe we're arguing about this," Buffy growled, giving Jenny a shove. The girl was deceptively strong. Jenny clutched the cold iron rails and swung herself over the edge. The ladder led to another rooftop, this one lower. From there they could slide down a drain spout the storey and a half to the ground.

"When we get down, I want you to go," Jenny hissed as they reached the far side of the second rooftop.

"No way. We stick together."

"Please. Spare me."

"I'm serious," Buffy shouted.

Jenny sighed heavily. "I mean spare my fucking life. You can do stupid shit and get yourself arrested, or you can let me go and give me a chance to get free."

Buffy thought about it. "No. Your chances are better with me."

Jenny's laugh was bitter. "What. Like Rupert's chances were better because of you?" As soon as she said it, she wished she hadn't.

##

Spike lit a match against a lightpole and watched as Caleb and his wrecking crew blew into the dead Brit's building like they were hot for blood. His eyes were burning and his face felt flushed with the same anger and fear he'd felt all day, following the little bread-crumb trail Buffy had left for him--and all because he'd given Buffy the bread in the first place: those damn travel visas. Her friends were going to be seriously dead because of that. And Buffy, too. And probably Spike himself as soon as the trail wound back around his way. He was a detective. He worked for the police. He knew how the game was played. Hell, that's why he'd offered to help Buffy in the first place a couple of years ago. Now it was all blowing to hell. Upstairs in that apartment, they'd find the Gypsy (for they'd discovered that Jenny was Romani when they'd questioned kids at the school) and arrest her---best-case scenario, of course. And, because he'd spotted Buffy entering the building as he and the rest of the police were arriving, he knew that chances were good they'd find Buffy there, too.

He dropped his cigarette and ground it out with the heel of his boot.

"Caleb," he shouted. His partner turned and glared impatiently. That made Spike smile, making Caleb wait to enjoy the mayhem a moment longer.

"What?" Caleb asked.

Spike nodded his head toward the building. "You know old Mr. Giles has probably had a mess of students over here already to scare the bitch off. Stupid university types all think with one brain. We're here way too late. She probably slipped out an hour ago or more."

Caleb's face turned red. "Well, then, Mr. Blood, we'll see. But if you're right about that, where do you think we should be looking next?"

Spike squinted up at the black sky. For effect, of course, since it was dark out. In a flash, he knew exactly where Buffy would take her---or, rather, where he would take her if he were Buffy. He looked Caleb level in the eyes. "The cemetery."

Caleb smiled slyly and shrugged. "Either way, she's a dead woman."

##


Tara heard the sound of soft footsteps in the hall. She'd become expert at recognizing Willow's approach as she came home from work. Ever since moving in, or coming to stay, since Willow's suitcase of possessions hardly qualified as "moving in," the girl had risen early and worked late. Though a bit remote, or at least preoccupied, Willow was perfectly polite and sweet. Her smile was enough to illuminate the entire apartment, and Tara liked to think she reserved that smile only for her. Tara sought out what moments she could with Willow, staying up late and intercepting her with some leftovers from dinner, or a drink, or both. In the morning she rose early to make coffee, or what passed for coffee, since rations were limited. She asked Willow about the news from the Front, or the latest from the Fuhrer, since Willow's work at the newspaper gave her information that Tara's neighbors generally didn't get until the evening radio shows came on or the evening paper arrived, if they got it at all. She, of course, assumed that Willow's working late was because she was inclined to fervently support the war effort. It made Tara feel somewhat connected to her brother and Riley out on the eastern Front to know that Willow would know first if there were news of a victory. Letters from the Front had become more sparse as of late. She hadn't heard from her brother in nearly three weeks, and Riley...well, he hadn't written at all yet. But most of all, she just looked forward for Willow herself to come home and draw her away from the monotony of waiting, for Willow to take away the pang of loneliness and replace it with warmth and breath and light.

So it was with a thumping chest that Tara received Willow each night at the front door, ushering her inside, asking about her day. And each night Willow welcomed Tara with eyes bright and warm, and perhaps with something small--a hard candy, or an apple or a bit of chocolate, a small bottle of brandy, even, once. They were sweet little gestures. She had no idea how Willow came by some of these things. She halfway suspected the girl was a shoplifter, or perhaps her position at the newspaper gave her access to special things. Or perhaps she was a spy or insurrectionist. Or maybe all of the above. Willow was mischievously tight-lipped about it, and Tara enjoyed the romance of not knowing.

This particular night, Willow came through the door with her usual shy smile and produced a rose. Tara accepted it dumbly, wondering where in the world that could have come from at the heart of wartime winter. It was small and lovely. It made her heart ache.

"Ah, th- there's someone here to see you," Tara said, breaking their ritual moment of greeting. The girl's eyes grew wide with fear. Tara could swear she took a step back toward the door as if to run.

Xander climbed to his feet from where he'd been sitting on the couch in the parlour. His eyes were sad. He'd been crying. "Willow..." he said softly, as if trying not to frighten her away.

"Xander?" She stood rooted in place a moment, and then practically ran to him. "What are you doing here? I mean, I thought we agreed, you know..." Her voice was a scared whisper.

"It's Giles," he softly replied. "He died. Earlier today." His eyes darted to Tara, and then he whispered. "I- I don't know the details."

Her back was turned, but Tara could tell from the slump of her shoulders that the girl was devastated. Xander took her by the arms and pulled her into a tight hug that surely was the only reason she didn't sink to the floor. They swayed silently together, disappearing into their own turmoil, until Tara felt like she should leave them alone. She went to the kitchen to put on some more water for tea.

She set the kettle to boiling, her mouth rolling over a strange name on her tongue, trying out the shape of it: Willow. Xander had called her Willow. A nice name, delicate and strong. A nickname, a small endearment?

Xander had shown up about an hour ago, eyes red-rimmed and so sad. She had instinctively wanted to reach out and pull him into her arms. But his voice was steady and distant as he asked after Wilma. Tara let him in and he'd waited silently in the parlour until his friend came home. He'd said practically nothing, except that someone who had been like a father to them had died and that Willma was going to take it hard. Tara could tell that Xander was taking it hard, too.

The teakettle whistled, and Tara turned off the gas, leaving the water to cool. She took a seat at the kitchen table and left her grieving friends to themselves for a while. There was nothing Tara could do right now, but later, after Xander left and went home, Tara could lend Wilma--or Willow--her friendship. Perhaps little consolation in comparison to losing home and family and friends, but it was all Tara had to give. She put the rose in a small vase and set it on the windowsill. And waited.

##

"Crap!" Jenny spat with disgust.

Buffy and Jenny were in the dark again. But now instead of climbing rooftops, they were traversing the subterrain of the Berlin sewer system.

Buffy swung around. "Another rat?" she whispered, hoping it wasn't anything worse.

"No. It's ok. I mean. It's not. I just--I just can't. I can't believe we're doing this. Where are we going?"

Buffy shrugged. "I don't know yet."

They were crouched beneath a manhole cover, the silver light of the moonlit night sifting down through the small holes in the iron grating. The smell was rotten, but at least it was a bit warmer down here than up above in the wind. There hadn't been time to grab Jenny's coat. Buffy tried not to dwell on the fact that Jenny now officially had only the clothes on her back, and that wasn't even really enough. Buffy tried not to dwell on the fact that if the police knew about Jenny, then they'd surely be looking for Willow, too. She was glad that she had no idea where Xander had hidden her.

She and Xander had made an arrangement to minimize exposure along their chain. He wouldn't know where she hid Jenny, and she wouldn't know where Willow was. That way if either of them were interrogated, they could honestly say they didn't know. It was a small measure of protection against the seemingly all-knowing Gestapo, and on some level neither of them liked it. She missed Willow. It had been two weeks since her mother had asked Willow to leave. Xander had taken her then, and Buffy had no idea now when she'd see her again--or even if ever.

Buffy certainly hoped Xander had Willow some place better than a sewer.

"You're not moving in here. I'm just buying time to think," Buffy said to Jenny. She had no idea where she could take Jenny that she'd be safe. The visas were long gone by now, in the hands of the authorities. She hoped that didn't come back to bite Spike.

"I give up." Jenny's voice was small. Buffy almost could pretend she hadn't heard the words.

"Won't help at this point," Buffy said, unable to overcome her practicality. "They'll just keep working their way through each of us. Turning yourself in won't stop this."

"It won't stop them," Jenny agreed. "But it will stop this."

##

Willow hadn't wanted to talk after Xander finally left. It was late. She accepted a cup of tea with hands that seemed not to notice they were now occupied. She carried the cup and saucer with her down the hall, wordlessly, into her room and closed the door without even turning the light on.

That was over an hour ago, and Tara found herself unable to fall asleep. Willow was hurting. Tara didn't know what was the right thing to do. She just knew she couldn't do nothing. She rose helplessly--or was it helpfully--to her feet, pulling her robe on against the chill of the apartment and padded down the hall to Willow's door, which was half-open. She could only make out the barest shapes of the furniture. If Willow was awake, she didn't say anything. But then Tara wasn't looking for an invitation. She wasn't looking for anything. She simply walked in and slipped into bed behind Willow and wrapped her arms protectively around her. At first the girl's body was stiff and unyielding. Tara didn't retreat. She rubbed her cheek against Willow's neck and planted a small kiss there.

"I'm with you," Tara whispered. It seemed like a completely inadequate thing to say in a situation like this. What do you say to comfort someone who has lost everything and practically everyone? Or is this one of those times where words are useless, anyway? Tara decided to let her arms do the talking. She wrapped Willow tightly to her. After a long moment, Willow relaxed into the embrace with a small, choked cry. Then the cry became crying, and Tara held her, absorbing every sob with her body, lending all the strength and warmth she could give. She curled her legs up against Willow's, closing whatever space remained between them, from head to toe. She nuzzled soft hair and pressed her lips once more, this time against Willow's bare shoulder, then settled herself in for good.

Some time later Tara woke when Willow reached down to pull the covers up over them both. Tara gave Willow one more squeeze of reassurance, and then smiled as Willow relaxed again into her embrace with a sigh. Tara knew she hadn't made things perfect, but she hoped somehow she'd made them just enough.

##

Spike sat in his favorite armchair. He took a drag on his cigarette and gazed thoughtfully at Buffy. The girl was limp like an old flower and smelled something awful. The perfume told him he'd guessed right earlier. She'd taken her friend Jenny to the sewers. He felt smug satisfaction that he'd directed Caleb to the cemetery. The police, along with Caleb and Spike, had been there almost until daybreak, searching every crypt and cranny. They hadn't scared up a soul.

"What's wrong, love?" he cooed softly. She'd simply appeared without sound and had been sitting on his couch for a long while now, giving the place the thousand-yard stare. Spike glanced through the curtains to the gathering day. He’d have to be back at work soon enough, and Buffy had to be getting to school sometime. Or home. Wouldn't mom and sis be worried?

"The police. They killed one of my professors today," she said, finally, all zombie-like, a huge, wet teardrop clinging to her lashes. He noticed she wasn't saying anything about the Gypsy or her friend "Red." She shot an angry glare across the room, the first emotion she'd shown. "This is just the beginning, isn't it?"

A cryptic question, deserving of a cryptic answer. "The police have a lot of people on the list for questioning. Gets longer every day."

"They're going to go after the university professors. And the student activists," she said. "Like me."

Ah, yes. This topic was bound to come up sometime. He sighed. "You know I can't tell you anything. You know what I am, that I'm SS, that I have a job and you have a job and every here and there we help each other a bit."

"Spike," she pleaded. "I just want to know. When is it all going down?"

"I can't tell you," he said. In his mind's eye he saw visions of bloodiness, guns, marching boots and lots of screaming kids. The universities were hotbeds for political opposition. Buffy wasn't really a rabble-rouser in the way a lot of them were. Her style was more subtle. She and her friends worked on their own, and he knew it was less about politics than protecting a few innocents from evil. And here was Spike. Employed by the big evil. Buffy and her chums weren't going to stop the war or sew seeds of dissent. They were just trying to get people they loved the hell out of harm's way. He loved her, wanted to protect her a bit. She was small fry.

"What I can tell you," he said, carefully choosing his words, "is that I will give you a high sign, and you'd better be ready to clear out when I say." He jabbed his finger at her for emphasis. "You're right. It's going to get big and messy. And maybe that's better for you and your friends. You can slip to the margins and out of sight."

It was clear she didn't like what she heard.

He tread a bit closer to the truth. "There are going to be examples made."


##

Willow woke to find Tara wrapped around her, a hand resting squarely on the middle of Willow's belly and a leg entwined with her own, as if they were lovers, well, except they weren't. Were they? That would presume some level of nakedness. Willow ventured a small peek, discovering that she was still wearing her slip. Her relief was offset, however, by the sight of Tara's body stretched out along her own, a creamy thigh, blond hair splayed across Willow's chest, warm breath sighing across the hollow of her throat. A strange energy emanated outward through Willow's body from where Tara's hand lay to points beyond, infusing her with heat and kick-starting a pulse deep in her belly. She recognized it as: Want.

Where did that come from? She’d slept countless nights curled against Buffy or Dawn or Jenny and never woke to this feeling. It had a heaviness and an urgency to it. She felt the flutter again, teasing and tickling inside her, begging her to do something. Tara was beautiful, sensual, soft. Tara made Willow’s heart pound whenever she was near, which was frightening enough, and yet Willow needed her to be near. She craved it more than coffee or chocolate, food, warmth, safety. And safety was what was at stake here: If she crossed a certain, undefined line, she would be out of a place to stay. Where was the line between friend and more-than-friend? And wasn’t there perhaps another line between more-than-friend and lover? Could she cross one line and not get her ass kicked out of the house? What was this want that made her body hum, and, well, what did it want?

She lay a while longer, trying not to succumb, trying to relax and pretend this was Buffy. But this wasn’t Buffy. This was Tara. She tried to intellectualize it away. Left column, the pluses. Right column, the minuses. But her brain went all fuzzy and refused to be linear, as if kicked offline by this insistent pulsing want. And it was definitely a pulse. The longer Tara’s hand lay against the flat of Willow’s stomach, against the pulse-point there, rising and falling heavily with each breath Willow took, the stronger its beat became. That hand: the weight of it she could feel against the pumping of blood. Tara was oblivious, of course, to the gathering of energy, of electrical charge, of magnetic surge that was setting something in motion inside Willow. And with each breath and pump and pulse, fear and inhibitions ebbed, replaced by something more urgent than want: Need.

Willow couldn’t be still. She needed to roll the sleeping woman over, and wrap herself around her, lay heavily upon her, to anchor her and be anchored.

So she did. Carefully, so as not to wake her, Willow edged up slightly and turned Tara over without breaking their embrace. Tara didn't wake. Her face was absolutely serene and beautiful as her head settled into the pillow, and Willow slid slowly upon her, resting her forehead on Tara's shoulder, and drawing her hand in heavy, slow circles across the woman's stomach. The satin of Tara's nightgown felt heavenly against Willow's palm. She especially liked the sensation of soft skin beneath it. She drew in a breath, acclimating to a level of arousal she'd never felt before--this realization that she very much wanted to push up the fabric and draw slow circles skin-to-skin. Her body absorbed the new sensations of being on top: of Tara’s legs tangled in hers, of the rise and fall of Tara’s breathing that carried Willow upon her breast, the warmth emanating up through her skin and infusing Willow with a dangerous chill. The only word that sprang to mind was: "mine." That's what she wanted to make Tara. She scarcely knew what that meant, or certainly what it entailed, sexually speaking, but she knew in this moment there was no way she could possibly get close enough to Tara; she had only this deep insistence that she be inside. She wanted to sink in and be swallowed whole, consumed, obliterated, reborn.

She knew it was pointless. They had so much standing between them: the fiancé, the Jewish thing, being on the lamb from the Gestapo. But right now, in this moment, held firm under Willow's weight, Tara was hers. She could at least pretend for a while.

And then Tara stirred. With a small shock, Willow stilled her hand.

"Don't," Tara sighed. "That feels good."

She's not awake yet, Willow told herself. She doesn't know what she's saying. She lifted her head to find those ocean-blue eyes gazing back at her with a mixture of amusement and wonder.

"Well, hello," Tara said.

"Um, hi."

Tara ran warm hands up along Willow’s sides and down her back, leaving a trail of electricity in their wake. Depth charges went off inside Willow as she realized that perhaps Tara did know what she was saying. Oh, god. Stop looking at me that way. I'm going to start moving. I'm going to start moving. I want to move. I want- I want...

"Uh...?" Willow was rendered completely incoherent.

But apparently Tara was fluent in incoherence, because her eyes said she understood. And with a sweet smile, she shifted, drawing Willow on top of her completely. Willow found herself meeting Tara's blue gaze that, though surprised, was unflinching. Oh, god. Please stop looking at me that way. I'm going to start moving. If you even breathe I'm going to start moving. Oh, god, I want to move. I want- I...

"I-" Willow said and then her voice was stifled as Tara took a deep breath, and Willow's entire being suffused with the knowledge of every contour of Tara, conveyed from flesh to flesh. Willow reached for Tara's hands and clasped them, and Tara's eyes darkened. Her expression changed from one of affection and maybe a little teasing to one of need. And then the worst possible thing happened, from a self-control standpoint, anyway: Tara began moving, her hips shifting at first just once, twice, and then an actual rhythm took over, so small, so slight, barely perceptible at all, but Willow's senses were on fire, from her thighs and belly and twining out to her fingertips, which clutched Tara's hands with such desperate certainty, outstretched and pressed into the sheets. Tara was moving at a modulation for which Willow's body was a finely calibrated receiver.

"Oh, god..." Willow uttered, a guttural sound, a plea, an invitation, a warning that a line was crossing, and along with it, self-control. "Tara?" Her eyes were locked on Tara's. Where's the line? Where's the line? Here? Tell me. Is it here? Now? Now?

Tara said nothing, but her eyes darkened even further as her lips parted and her breathing intensified, taking pace with the slow and steady rocking of her hips. That's when Willow realized that she, too, had begun to move. She closed her eyes against the impulse to let go completely, luxuriating and holding back in equal turns.

"Please," Tara breathed softly. "Look at me."

Willow kept her eyes closed, letting the conflicting forces pull against her in this delicious yes-no, yes-no, yes-no rhythm they were setting together. Huh. Together.

"Look at me," Tara repeated. "Please. Willow."

At the sound of her name on Tara's tongue, unfamiliarly, Willow's eyes opened.

"Willow," Tara said again, a musical sound, barely more than a sigh, but still a command. Willow met that gaze with the certainty that in fact she did want Tara to know this girl, the real girl. Willow. The light in Tara's eyes said it was Willow she welcomed.

So Willow bent down, giving Tara's lips the softest contact, just a small tug at the fullness of Tara's lower lip, which she caught delicately between her own. Tara tilted her chin, capturing Willow's mouth in a tender and insistent kiss. Willow felt another electrical jolt course through her body, sapping the strength in her arms, as Tara's lips parted and accepted Willow inside. Willow melted, feeling her muscles liquefy. Tara's hands were free again, and she ran them up Willow's back, pulling the thin slip up over her back, stroking the bare skin Tara found just beneath. More skin. Now. More. Willow shifted, letting Tara pull the garment over her shoulders. They broke their kiss as Tara drew the slip over Willow's shoulders and head and discarded it. Their eyes locked once more, transformed by the gravity of need. Then their mouths met again, and Willow gently explored the depths there to see if she'd possibly found a route to that place inside Tara she craved to dissolve into. And Tara drew her in deeply. God. Inside. Inside. Deeper. Must. Let me. Deeper.

Instead, Tara took her higher. Willow felt the soft strength of Tara's thigh rising under her, between her legs, meeting the gentle rhythm of Willow's hips and giving it a bodily counterbalance. Willow was surprised at her own carnality as she broke the kiss with a growl and rolled her hips against Tara's smooth skin, spreading her legs and reigniting her rhythm with a new muscularity. Tara tangled a hand in Willow's hair, dragging their eyes back to each other.

"Please. Look at me," Tara commanded quietly, her voice low. Her gaze was tinged with wonder and desire. She kept her fingers twined in Willow's hair, and arched her body, to give Willow every bit of contact she could create. Willow understood, then, Tara's need, and she shifted ever so slightly, so that each thrust of her hips brought her into contact with the soft wetness between Tara's legs. The opposing twin sensations of sliding and resistance were intoxicating. Willow ran her hand up Tara's belly, dragging the nightgown with it. Their rhythm paused, deliciously, for another brief moment as Willow drew the satin material over Tara's shoulders and liberated her from it.

When their bodies resumed contact this time, it was skin-on-skin, and all higher brain function was gone. Willow threw herself into Tara with a thirst that would have been frightening if Tara hadn't met it with equal ferocity. But she did. Her eyes flashed want and urgency, and it lifted Willow higher, if that were possible, realizing she was responsible for Tara's need. No one had ever looked at her with such complete, vulnerable wanting. She had never seen so deeply inside someone else, seen something so achingly, so all-consumingly, real.

"Oh," she growled, a sound that escaped her mouth with a gasp. Followed by another, pleading this time: "Oh." And then again, in time with the thumping of her heart, "Oh," as her hips struck a rhythm that not even a freight train could stop now. She could feel it then, a dark cliff approaching and beyond it, she knew, lay oblivion. She was drawn steadily toward it. "Oh," she gasped, this time with a lightness, and her eyes closed.

Then Tara's hand was there, sweetly, stroking her cheek, cupping her chin, demanding that Willow meet her eyes once more. It took everything Willow had not to let the sweet darkness fall, but to stay here, open and present, with Tara. She fought to keep her orgasm at bay, trying to relax, wanting to prolong this. But the relaxing only made it want to come faster. Tara's eyes told her she knew Willow was struggling, and Tara let out a low moan.

"Oh, god, Tara. I-, I'm-" Willow couldn't believe she was still even capable of words, but she wanted Tara to know everything, to be here with her, to be inside her, feeling everything, inside, from inside. She wanted to feel Tara's hand, Tara's anything, all of Tara, inside her, but she couldn't break from the course her hips were currently on. So close, so close.

"I'm so--," she groaned, her eyes pleading, apologetic almost.

"Wait," Tara breathed, her eyes conveying raw lust. And something Willow hadn't seen there before: possessiveness.

"Wait," Tara said again, more urgently, and Willow could swear it was the most erotic word, the one command she knew she would never obey. She gasped.

And then her orgasm pulled her under. And she fell into it with a long, drawn cry that exploded from within her.

Tara's eyes were wide, accepting, registering want and tenderness, her body absorbing the energy and light rolling from Willow in great waves. She kept their rhythm going, carrying Willow on the rise and fall of her hips. Willow's cry settled into a low growl, a sound that came from deep in her belly and centered her there. Moving. Still moving. Move. Oh, god, moving. Now Tara's body kicked into low gear, heat rising up through her skin, her breathing infused with a moan that set Willow's blood on fire again.

Tara took Willow's hand and gently pulled it down, lower and lower, until it met the place of her need. Willow nearly came again at the sensations there: an amazing softness, all tender flesh, swelling and wet, so, so wet. Tara's hand guided her, her fingertips running the smooth channel there as Tara moved. Willow knew that entrance lay just the slightest pull away, and she wanted in. She flexed her hand almost imperceptibly, wanting to know Tara wanted her there, and Tara's cry of arousal gave Willow her answer. Tara's hips slowed a moment as she plunged Willow's hand inside herself. Inside, wetly, securely, deliciously. Deeply. Willow groaned in amazement as Tara's hips kept their slow, steady pulsing against the solid resistance of Willow's hand. Willow explored the depths there, soft, fleshly and yielding. Slickened with Tara's arousal. Warm. Willow flexed her fingers, pulling them upward, curling back, to see what effect the pressure had. Tara's muscles squeezed in response.

Tara gasped in surprise a half-moment later. Willow gleamed with new knowledge. On the next upstroke of Tara's hips, Willow pulled again. Another muscular flutter met Willow's fingertips. Tara cried, this time higher, the sound of her breathing rising. "Oh, god-"

The rhythm of Tara's hips slowed and became more of an insistent thrusting. Her legs spread farther apart to allow as much of Willow in as possible. Willow's hand found its way deeper inside. Deeper, wetter, if that were even possible. It was Willow's turn to moan. Tara thrust her hips again and held still, waiting for Willow's tug in response. "Oh, god," Willow whispered. "I- I want-, I want to-"

Tara's eyes were desperate, her voice raw. "Please. Willow."

Oh, god, she wants me to fuck her. Willow's own body throbbed with this knowledge and with the abject conviction to do so. Thoroughly.

"Deeper," Tara pleaded. She reached back for the headboard and twined her fingers there, opening herself completely to Willow, and thrust her hips again, the muscles of her arms and stomach flexing. "Deeper," Tara repeated, this time a command. Willow bent herself to the task, pushing and then pulling, alternating with the movement of Tara's every stroke, which Tara punctuated with a throaty, "Oh." "Oh." "Oh."

It was the most provocative song that had ever been sung for her, and she was drawing it out with her hands, pulling it excruciatingly from deep inside Tara. There was nothing separating them now. Every stroke Willow felt inside herself. Every command Tara gave was a vocalization of exactly what Willow also needed in that moment.

"Faster," Tara gasped, and Willow instinctually picked up the pace of her own hips in time with the movements of her hand in Tara. She wanted to never stop and felt the tightening in her own belly as she saw the same threat of climax begin to cloud Tara's eyes and her cheeks flush pink. Willow slid up Tara's body so that her mouth was at Tara's ear.

"Stop," she whispered.

To her amazement, Tara obeyed with a labored gasp, and the two of them lay motionless, staring hungrily into each other's eyes, as their bodies struggled with the concept of stillness. Willow felt the fluttering inside Tara as well as the clenching within herself.

"Ah," Willow groaned. "God, you're beautiful. I want you so bad I-"

And then Tara came. She came mightily, with an unexpected growl and a tightening as muscles clasped Willow's fingers, pulling and releasing in turns. It was amazing. In reply, Willow resumed the pumping of her own hips, as Tara's began their rocking again, wringing every ounce of release from her orgasm. In between gasps, Willow managed a feeble: "I want--, I need-I-"

And then Willow came, too, this time in sympathy with the pressure and release she'd ignited within Tara. She cried out, her voice joining and mingling with Tara's, loud at first, and then gentler, until their release gradually equilibrated to a baseline low rumbling. They continued to move together for a while, drinking in the sensation of each other's skin, muscle, scent, taste, breath, absorbing this knowledge carnally. Tara finally let go of the headboard, wrapped her arms around Willow and rolled them over so she was on top.

Willow felt the flutter again and knew they were far from done, that the entire day--or even entire days--could be spent in this manner, and it would never be enough. She gazed up at Tara in wonder, with understanding of an entirely new language, a whole new knowledge of human relations, a whole new meaning of the word desire. How wonderful and terrible to be sated and starved at the same time.

Tara's voice was shy, but her eyes were not. "Ca- can I touch you?" she asked softly.

Willow sighed, stretching her arms back until she now gripped the headboard as Tara had before. "I think I'll die if you don't," she whispered, a challenge.

Tara's eyes flashed possessiveness and delight. She ran a soft fingertip from Willow's lips, tracing a line down her chin, along her throat, over her breast, where she lingered a bit, then down her stomach, lingering a moment there, too, to tease Willow's navel, before slipping her hand between Willow's legs, caressing the soft wetness there and leaving her throbbing for more. Willow amended, in voice high and breathy: "Or- Or maybe I'll die if you do."

Tara chuckled, a low, throaty sound that made Willow certain that she was definitely in trouble. In a good way. Tara slowed her stroking and edged a finger inside, lightly, teasingly, eliciting a groan from Willow, who arched for more. Tara accepted the invitation, slipping her fingers deep and stilling them there. She held her breath, watching Willow's face intently.

Willow felt her arousal build steadily into a surge: "Oh..," one kick low in the belly. "My..," another, even deeper. "God," she whispered, and then she was helpless to keep from moving her hips, starting a driving rhythm that surprised them both as she bore herself down on the delicious resistance of Tara's hand. So this is fucking. Huh. I like. Must. Have. More.

"Is this?" she gasped, "Is this what it was like for you? Is this what it felt like? Uh--like this? This?"

Tara's eyes widened as her breath quickened and she nodded with some certainty.

"Oh, god. I want-, Want you. Want you. Please. Tara. I want you. Oh, god. Like that. Inside. Inside me. Deeper. Deeper. Tara. Please..."

Tara shifted her hand, sending Willow incoherent for a stroke, two, three.

Tara's eyes glittered as if she were surprised and aroused by the knowledge she could make Willow want this so much. Willow wanted there to be no doubt.

"Oh, god. Tara. I need. I need you. I need you to fuck me. Please. Fuck me. Yes. Like--, Like that. Uh-" Willow had never spoken the word aloud, but now it embodied everything she needed, and she wanted to know the shape of it on her tongue and to see what the word did to Tara when she heard it, what it did to Tara when she understood the power Willow wanted her to wield.

"Tara. I want--. Don't stop. Like that. Fuck me. Please." Willow could hear the cadence of her voice rise with the tightness gathering within her. She wanted impossibly more. As in: I want you inside me. I want to hold you there. I want to melt into you and become nothing. I want you to take me. Do anything to me. Do everything. Make me yours. Make me yours.

Not all of the words made it to her mouth.

"Yours," Willow whispered.

Tara's answering kiss told Willow that maybe Tara understood all the words that lay in a jumble behind that one.

But Willow needed air. She broke the kiss with a cry and Tara answered with one of her own. Tara's body echoed the pace demanded by Willow's. Their hips synchronized, their breathing aligned. The tightness gathered inside, drawn there by Tara's insistent rocking and the power of that beautiful hand, which Willow had thought she'd mapped before, but now with great certainty knew she had not. Tara literally held her now in the palm of her hand, stroking firmly inside, plunging deep, then retreating almost completely before plunging in again, each stroke now eliciting a flutter and a cry from Willow.

Willow struggled to speak. "You want?" she asked. She wanted Tara's words.

Tara gasped with the effort to form them. "I want to fuck you. God. I want to fuck you speechless."

Under different circumstances, Willow would have laughed at that.

"I've-Nobody's ever done this," Willow panted. "I- I need you to."

"I want to fuck you. God, I love fucking you."

"Why?"

That question surprised Tara: "Why?"

"Why. Tell me." Willow's eyes were locked on Tara's.

"I've- I've wanted this," Tara gasped. "To feel you, to fuck you. I've thought about it. About how good it would feel."

"God, I want to come. I- I'm trying so hard not to. I don't want to. I want to feel you. Feel this. I want to feel."

Tara took this as a challenge. She pushed deeper, reducing Willow once more to speechlessness. Willow changed her breathing, trying to relax, to stave off the rush at the cliff Tara was driving her toward. She danced along the edge of the chasm. But the lightness in her belly was coming again. Willow felt herself lifted almost against her will.

"Tara. Please." She breathed the words as spots appeared at the periphery of her vision. She was slipping. "Don't stop, please, I- I'm going to--."

Tara whispered in her ear one simple word: "Come."

And Willow did, with a shout this time, arching into Tara's body, Tara's hand, wrapping her arms tightly around Tara and savoring every pulsation, releasing, only to feel the tightness gathering again. Willow felt her muscles squeeze Tara's hand inside her.

"Please, baby, come for me, too. I need you," Willow pulled at Tara's hips, setting them rocking again against her thigh, which was slick with Tara's wanting. Willow's body spasmed, still riding the high of her orgasm, and Tara rode it with her, clicking back into rhythm, thrusting once, twice. "Willow, I-"

"Come, baby," Willow whispered, her body bucking with another aftershock. But the tightness continued to gather in her belly, and she realized she was climbing higher instead of drifting down, buoyed by the knowledge that Tara was so close.

"Tara, I've never been with anybody like this before. I- I have no idea what I'm doing. B- but it's like I'm on fire. I have this animal need. This absolute arousal when I'm with you. I didn't know it could be like this. You're so beautiful. I want you so much. I want to give you everything I have. I want to never let you go. Your hand--it belongs to me. And-And my hand..." Willow looked at her own hand as if seeing it for the first time. She drew her fingers into her own mouth, sucking them a moment, gazing directly into Tara's eyes before moving her wet hand down between Tara's legs and slipping it inside, giving Tara one more piece of her to writhe against. "My hand belongs to you."

Tara's eyes grew serious; her brow creased. "Willow-" she gasped. And then she came. Willow accepted Tara's collapsing weight and the sound of her own name and the way Tara's muscles encircled her fingers and held them tightly as if she'd never let them go.

"Oh, god. Oh, god. What's happening to me?" Willow breathed excitedly. "I want you. I want it all."

Eventually, as the shocks subsided, and Willow drew Tara into her arms, stroking the woman's blond hair, enjoying the tickle of it across her chest. Tara clung to Willow, catching her breath.

"I'm sorry," Willow was saying, gazing up at the ceiling, which gazed back at her whitely, except for the light fixture, which was white porcelain with little painted roses. "I talk too much. I don't know when to stop."

Tara gave her a mischievous half-smile. "I'm fairly sure that was the first time someone actually talked me into coming."

"I did that?" Willow grinned, as if amazed by her own power. "Wow."

"You know I'm not anywhere near done here," Tara said, tangling her hand in Willow's hair and drawing her in for a kiss.

"I think I'd die if you said you were," Willow smiled, but the words felt absolutely true.

"Please don't die, " Tara smiled. "Except in a sexual, metaphoric way."

Willow gazed up at the ceiling again. "We're good. I have at least two lives left," she murmured, a little of the real world seeping into the room at last.

"What are you, a cat?" Tara purred into her chest.

"Something like that. Except the world's gone to the dogs."

'Well, I'm pretty sure I'm a cat, too," Tara chuckled. "I mean, if you are, then I must be."

Willow turned in Tara's arms and nuzzled the hollow of her neck. "Well one thing's for sure, at least: You're a cat person."

##

It was Willow's day off from the newspaper, so after breakfast and dishes and some laundry, Tara wanted to do something special, make a special outing, go for a walk, buy a cup of coffee somewhere, go to the park. She wanted to see Willow in daylight, outdoors, to do something extraordinarily mundane together. The sun was coming out from between white clouds. That meant no chance of rain. And for a January day, it felt unusually warm--a premonition of spring in the air. Hopeful. Clean. Suggesting life.

But Willow stiffened when Tara suggested it. Just an offhand remark: "Let's go outside for a walk."

Tara watched now-familiar emotions passing like clouds across Willow's face, a face she already knew she could never grow tired of--would always see something new in.

"What's wrong?"

Willow frowned. "I don't know. I want to go, but then I feel all panicky."

Tara noddied, believing she understood. "Right. It's pretty traumatic having your apartment blow up and lose everything. It's natural that you'd want to stay somewhere safe and comforting. A bit gun-shy?"

"Well, yeah, there's that. We could, um, you know, uh...There are whole rooms here we haven't made love in yet." Those wide eyes so bashful and pleading. They pulled Tara inexorably in. Just that one sentence and Willow's expression set off a whole series of images in Tara's mind. And sensations.

But Tara snapped herself out of it, with a smile. "I promise you, Willow. We will wreck every surface in this place. I will fuck you in ways you haven't imagined yet, and you'll do things to me that you never knew you were capable of." For someone usually so quiet and reserved, Tara was emboldened with Willow. And she savored the effect her promises had on her. Damn. She wanted her again. Right here. Now.

A tentative smile in reply. "Just a warning...I, uh, have a pretty good imagination."

Tara chuckled. "Come out with me. We- we could call Xander and invite him along, if that makes you feel safer. Or-what was your other friend's name? Buffy? We could meet them somewhere."

Willow pondered this a bit, growing serious. "I'd really like to see them. Especially Buffy. She's got to have taken Giles's death pretty hard. He was practically her dad."

"She w-was a student of his?"

"We all were. Years ago, that is. But then things changed. I was in this place where I pretty much needed to find work. Xander, too, for different reasons. Buffy's still at university. And Giles is still her mentor. Was her mentor.” A long pause, and then: “We used to hang out at his apartment a lot. It was like Giles's Home for Wayward Youth. It was the place we’d meet up at the end of every day. We went and did things together, like the daytrip we took once out to the lake, and another we took out to the country. He had a lot of great books--all of these really rare volumes on history and folklore. I wonder what will happen to them…"

In the space of a few sentences Tara had learned more things about Willow than she had revealed in nearly two weeks of living together. Earlier this morning, Tara had caught a glimpse into Willow's soul and found it achingly beautiful. Now she wanted to also know her mind. And, damn it, she also wanted to see her in the sunshine.

##

Xander had met Buffy at the pre-agreed trolley stop. He was wearing his heavy wool coat, but the day was actually quite warm. The city smelled fresh and new, if that were even possible for Berlin. There were a lot of people on the streets today, probably most of them compelled outside by the beautiful weather. He'd been surprised to get Willow's phone call. But then again not surprised at all, after yesterday’s news about Giles. Willow had been so far outside the circle lately. She'd pretty much been dumped with Tara--lovely though Tara is--and would certainly be hungering by now for contact with her best friends. He'd arranged things so that he wouldn't reveal to Buffy where Willow was staying, and, of course, none of them would ask Buffy where Jenny was.

Buffy looked radiant and confident, as always. For such a small person, she packed considerable presence. She walked up to him with a tense smile on her face. "Beautiful day," she remarked.

"As days go, I'd have to say this is indeed lovely. And the lovelier because I get to spend it with the two women I love best." He pulled her into a hug. "I'm really sorry about Giles." He was stoic about it now. He'd cried his eyes out last night, probably spooking Tara and Willow. Man, Tara had only ever seen him at his absolute least manly.

Buffy hugged him back, with her own tired and stoic: "I'm dealing."

They linked hands and strolled down the street toward the park where Willow had suggested they meet.

"Is Willow--Is she in a good place?" Buffy asked, delicately, wanting reassurance but not too much information.

"She's staying with a woman named Tara. I think you'll get to meet her today. Tara doesn't know anything about Willow's background. To her, she's Wilma Hermann, that goofy, lovable gentile."

"And brilliant girl reporter. Don't forget that part," Buffy added. "My mom looks for her by-line in the newspaper every day."

"Right! Me, too!" Xander enthused. "God, I love how she does the Reich proud. Still, I don't know what kind of backstory Will's cooked up for Tara, so we'll have to follow her lead, conversationally speaking."

"Gotcha," Buffy chuckled. "Which won't be difficult, since it is Willow we're talking about here. All we have to do is make sure she has some caffeine, and she'll provide all the conversation a few chums could need."

"I did make sure that coffee was on the agenda," Xander grinned.

##

A few blocks further, they reached the park. It wasn't hard to spot Willow. The sun glinted off her red hair like mad. Buffy squinted into the light and cursed. "Conspicuous much?" she muttered, removing the hat from her own head and walking toward where Willow was animatedly chatting with a lovely blond woman Buffy assumed must be Tara.

As Buffy drew Willow into a hug, she pulled the hat down snugly on the girl's head. "Couldn't miss you," she smirked. Willow's eyes grew wide, understanding. She left the hat where Buffy had placed it. "God, Buffy, I've missed you."

"A lot's happened," Buffy said, simply. "We need each other."

The two of them locked into a comfortable embrace, wordlessly sharing the weight of the death of Giles, while reaffirming their love and devotion to each other. It was like drawing electricity to ground, and after a while they both visibly relaxed.

"Tha- That's why I suggested to Wil- Wilma that she call you. She's be- been spending too much time working," Tara said, her nervous stutter reappearing, as usual when confronted with a new social situation. She wanted to avoid mentioning Professor Giles. She didn’t need to.

Buffy rubbed Willow's shoulders, affectionately. "That's my Will, always throwing yourself into whatever you do."

"I always was an extra-credit kind of gal. Oh, hey, Buffy, I'd like you to meet Tara. She's my new roommate. Xander introduced us after my apartment, you know, went kablooey."

Buffy took Tara's hand in greeting, liking the warmth of the woman's eyes and the steadiness of her hand. Xander was right: Tara was lovely. She had a simple honesty about her. A Good German. "Nice to meet you, Tara."

Then she turned to Xander. "And you met Tara how?"

He chuckled. "Well, let's just say bombs dropping from the sky tend to bring some people together. Maybe it's all of that scared-huddled-masses kind of thing. Which I would totally be more than happy to never experience again in my life. No offense, Tara."

##

There was a cafe on the edge of the park that the foursome retreated to for some friendly chatter. Buffy maneuvered their party to a table in a corner, off and away from the sightlines of most of the other patrons. And she ushered Willow into the chair of least visibility. Only then did Willow take off Buffy's hat.

"So tell me a little about yourself, Tara," Buffy gamely suggested.

Tara blushed shyly. "Well, I'm 28. I grew up on a farm outside the city. My cousin Beth still lives there. My brother and I share an apartment here. Only he's off fighting on the eastern Front. I haven't seen him in a while. I look after his young boys. His-his wife passed away. But- but I sent them to the countryside to live with my cousin Beth, since things have been so crazy here lately."

"And the ring?" Buffy asked. She never missed a thing.

Tara blushed more deeply, nervously turning the thing on her hand as she shot a sideways glance at Willow, whose face remained remarkably impassive. "I, uh, my fiancé is also out on the eastern Front. He just left two weeks ago. When- when Wil- Wilma came to stay."

Xander piped up. "So Riley gave you a ring, eh? I guess congratulations are in order." Xander's grin was just a bit too happy. Buffy had his number: He always liked the pretty girls.

But while Xander enthused, Tara looked down awkwardly, as if she hadn't thought of it that way. "Yes, I suppose so," she replied.

"We should throw a party, maybe." It was Willow who said this with a yay-voice Buffy could tell was even faker than Xander's. All eyes turned to her, but none with more astonishment than Tara.

It was Willow's turn to blush. "Uh, maybe not an engagement party, because, like, Riley should really be here for something like that, right? I mean, otherwise it would really be just a party. Though I'm thinking that these days a just-a-party kind of party would be kind of...nice." She redeemed herself at the end with one of the sweetest Willow-smiles Buffy had seen in ages.

Willow sighed inwardly. She hadn't forgotten about Riley. She simply preferred to think of Tara and Riley as a couple headed for disaster. Of course Tara wanted to be a missus. And probably to have a bunch of blond, blue-eyed kids, too. Of course Tara was lonely. She had days upon days now with nothing to do. No Riley, no brother, no brother's kids to look after. She must be bored silly. What's there for her to look forward to, except more long, empty days until the war is over?

She put herself in Tara's shoes some more: Willow knew now that Tara was sexually experienced. And talented. And forward. And here was Willow--someone available and interested and non-threatening. She imagined that, to Tara, Willow was someone who could help occupy her evenings and weekends. She could satisfy Tara's appetites for sex and conversation. She could be her friend, lover, whatever, until Tara's conscience catches up with her. Or Riley does. Until then, this was all a dream she could conveniently wake up from.

Or maybe this morning had been an aberration. After all, it was Willow who pressed the matter, whose hormones had led one thing to another. She was certain Tara had only climbed into her bed last night thinking of providing comfort. Tara was used to taking care of people. It had been almost certainly a motherly--or sisterly-thing to do, right? And Willow, in her desire for sexual knowledge of Tara, had pushed things. And Tara probably responded in wartime fashion: Everybody does what they need to to get by until it's all over and then it would be back to life as usual. This world was a fantasyland. Granted, a very sick, disturbing and dangerous fantasyland. But it definitely had the heightened realism of a really bad dream.

And Willow didn't even know what she was doing, as a lover. She'd never been a lover before. Wouldn't Tara always be comparing her to Riley, or whoever else came before him? Willow lacked experience--and some equipment--that Tara's other lovers probably had. Thinking this way made her realize just how indulgent Tara had been earlier. Willow's entire being right now was enflamed with wanting her. And Tara had wanted to go to the park.

Willow looked across the table at the beautiful girl with whom she'd just shared some of the most personal moments of her life. She felt a bit in awe, a bit in fear, a bit in love. Whatever came of this, it was more than she'd dared to hope for. She didn't dare to hope for more.

##


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 Post subject: Re: Night of Broken Glass --New Fic
PostPosted: Wed Sep 26, 2007 10:36 pm 
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2. Floating Rose
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Long post got cut off. Here's the rest of Part 3



Night of Broken Glass--Part 3a


The rest of the afternoon was golden. Tara thoroughly enjoyed the company of Willow and her friends. It was clear they adored one another. They had a siblings' way of teasing, of finishing each other's sentences, of speaking in their own shorthanded way. Xander was the same warm, chivalrous and real person who held her hand in the basement during the air raid. There was no pretending to be more than he was, unlike so many uniformed men--like Riley, for instance--who needed special clothing and rank to define them and how they should be. She could see in the space of a few meetings with Xander that he was always absolutely himself.

Buffy was a bit more hard-edged. She had a gravity about her. It was clear she was a bit of the ringleader: the pretty, self-possessed girl who'd caught up Xander and Willow in her orbit--willingly, of course. Tara could tell that if you needed something done, or a plan made, that Buffy was the one to do it. Had she been a man, she definitely would be an officer, like Riley and her brother. As a woman, she carried herself with a different kind of command. Tara could see what Willow and Xander loved about her. Buffy was someone who would be fiercely loyal.

And Willow. Where to even begin? Tara watched her with new knowledge dawning moment by moment. There was the way the light glinted off every surface of her. She looked deceptively innocent and amazingly happy, perfectly content in the moment, surrounded by people who were her people. She glowed. Tara wanted to think that perhaps she had something to do with the glowing, but she suspected that this was just Willow's normal comportment. Smart, funny, sweet, devoted, lovely.

After a bit of walking, the park lay behind them, the grass turning to pavement, the sun slanting low in the sky, picking up the fire of Willow's hair and illuminating the tangled strands of Buffy's as it blew hat-free in the wind. Willow held Buffy's hand as they walked and they shared a few private moments talking just between the two of them.

Tara fell back into step with Xander, the two of them admiring the gathering evening. She thought it was interesting how at first she might have assumed it would be Xander she would connect with. From their first meeting, had she had it all to play again, she would have sworn he would have been the one she fell into bed with. But now, as she watched Willow moving along the street ahead of her, her heart was filled with a sense that there was absolutely no other way it could have gone. And that same heart quickened knowing they were headed home. Her mind filled with images from this morning of those beautiful green eyes staring into hers so sweetly, so intently, so certainly, holding her whole. The fact that she was engaged and the fact that Willow was, well, a woman made the situation complicated. Maybe even a huge mess. But she only wanted more.

They came upon their trolley stop, and Willow let go of Buffy's hand, turning to Tara with bright eyes and extending the same hand to her, a lovely and loving gesture. Tara accepted it, lacing their fingers together. The touch sent shivers through her. She turned to Xander and wanted to thank him for bringing her the gift of this homeless orphan who'd come to mean so much in so little time. But she just couldn't form the proper words. Instead she leaned up and kissed his cheek. "Thank you for sharing your friends with me." He looked at her in surprise and then smiled warmly. "Thank you for taking care of her. She means the world to me."

##

Spike stubbed out his cigarette and felt totally ashamed of himself. He'd endured the chummy tableau before him for the better part of the afternoon, since he'd decided to tail Buffy for the day. This morning he told himself he was doing it in part to protect her. If he understood her movements and the people she interacted with, he could possibly deflect attention from her if the time came for that--provided he had the power to do so. But here today, he'd hit a veritable jackpot, and not in a good way. Here was "Red." The fugitive Willow. Caleb would give his left nut right now to have her in his sights. But somehow the sight of her just made Spike sad. She was cute as a button. The photo didn't do her justice by a long-shot. And Harris--that lackey from the very SS office Spike worked for--what was he doing wrapped up in all of this? Who knew the little bastard was so sneaky? The other blond, the one holding Willow's hand now, he didn't know her. Looked a little too old to be part of the university activist crowd Buffy ran with. Didn't look Jewish. Probably a sympathizer. He'd follow her and see what he could learn about her. Professional curiosity, of course.


More to come in Part 4


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 Post subject: Re: Night of Broken Glass --New Fic
PostPosted: Thu Sep 27, 2007 1:32 am 
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Hello :)

Did I mention I loved this story yet? Because I do.
Angsty, stressful... and now hot too. But definitely stressful!

This was a wonderful update. But God! This is also one of the most stressful.
Spike can't have an accident along with Calleb? *innocent*
I like Spike but he is dangerous.

And Giles... Poor Giles... Who was the woman with him? Poor Jenny. Poor them.

Please keep writing this lovely but angsty fic :)

Friendly,

Julia

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 Post subject: Re: Night of Broken Glass --New Fic
PostPosted: Thu Sep 27, 2007 7:24 am 
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I am absolutely breathless. That has got to be one of the most beautiful love scenes I have ever read. I found myself pleading with my computer: “Don’t be a dream. Please don’t be a dream!”

Your descriptive writing style is fabulous, with moments and lines like “feeling her muscles liquefy”, Tara being “liberated” from her nightgown, and “How wonderful and terrible to be sated and starved at the same time” putting me completely in the moment. I can feel the desperation and desire emanating off the girls.

And I love the fact that Tara wanted to do something “extraordinarily mundane” (love the juxtaposition of those two words) with Willow, as it shows a depth of feeling that is about much more than just filling the void of loneliness. And although Willow doesn’t know that yet, I love the fact that she is willing to just take the experience as it comes.

Thank you so much for sharing this story.

P.S. I loved this line from the previous update: "As always, she was a day late, a dollar short and a pound too Jewish." Beautiful characterization.

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 Post subject: Re: Night of Broken Glass --New Fic
PostPosted: Thu Sep 27, 2007 12:18 pm 
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YES. update. :eatme

aah, June. thank you for this. Every day I check both the Kitten and the Looking-Glass so see if there's an update. Acutally, that's a lie. I check it like ten times a day.

No update has failed to dissapoint. In the first chapter I was thinking to myself how the pace would develop. How long it would take Willow and Tara to become 'Willow and Tara', how the Nazi nasty would continue and eveything fits wonderfully.

Beautiful and tender love scene, it was truly magnificent. I think my favorite part was how Tara kept asking Willow to look at her. Not just once, and not just twice. Tara needed Willow to look at her. It means so many different things and I think you captured it wonderfully.

On an entirely different note, I'm really enjoying the emotions play out in Spike. How when he's at work or with Caleb he freely feels so 'evil' and how Buffy and her friends are bleeding into his life and how conflicting it is for him. I can't wait to see how that plays out.

Thank you thank you thank you so much for this, it's one of the best fics I've ever read. The plot doesn't stagnate, the charachters are spot on and there's just enough evil out there so we never forget the danger everyone(especially Willow) is in.

*bows*

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 Post subject: Re: Night of Broken Glass --New Fic
PostPosted: Thu Sep 27, 2007 1:50 pm 
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How do you do that? Write like this? I'm definitely echooing Zooeys_Bridge: your story is one of the best I've ever read, wow.

I don't think I'm able to comment, but let's try!
The feeling of danger is nearly omnipresent in your fic...Giles' death was horrible, and Jenny seems to want to stop fighting... I find the role of Buffy very important in all this, like in the show: she is here to fight the "big bad".

The love scene was amazing, the connection between Willow and Tara is sure here. They really need to know more about each other's feelings. Willow's doubts in the café scene were heartbreaking...

Arg. Now Spike knows EVERYTHING! He knows about Willow, he recognised Xander, he's going to investigate about Tara. That was a little too much for me with Caleb around! Once more, your story really fits with the show, Caleb being to me the worst of the monsters they had to fight.

Thank you for your fic, I love it. Looking forward to the next update, I really want to know what is next. ;-)

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 Post subject: Re: Night of Broken Glass --New Fic
PostPosted: Thu Sep 27, 2007 8:53 pm 
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Thank you so much, Julia, masterjendu, Zooeys_Bridge and Halo, for your extremely thoughtful feedback. It means a lot to me to understand what aspects of the story really captured you most. And regarding the love scene, I'd wondered if I could write one that was as much about capturing our girls' personalities and developing them as characters as it was about sex. So sex not as a goal in and of itself but as a means of exploration. Willow/Wilma is surrounded by a world where words are hateful. It felt natural to have the relationship between her and Tara to develop out of physical expression, as opposed to verbal....which leads me to post...


Night of Broken Glass--PART 4

By Junecleavage



Rating: NC-17 for explicit sex and violence. There’s character death and a lot of close calls.

Uber setting: It’s 1943 Berlin, and the Nazis are the Big Bad



PART 4

Safe back inside the door of Tara's apartment, Willow threw Buffy's hat finally off of her head, grabbed Tara and shoved her roughly up against the wall of the dark entryway. Tara's eyes widened in surprise, then flickered in fierce anticipation as Willow leaned in to kiss her. The closer their mouths came, the gentler Willow's hold on her grew and the more tender her gaze. When at last their lips met, the kiss was agonizingly sweet. Tara felt herself relax, melting as Willow's mouth gently explored her own, taking her time, maybe even slowing time entirely. Tara ran a hand along Willow's shoulder, to her neck, twining fingers in red hair and cupping the back of Willow's head as she tried to deepen the kiss. Willow growled and intensified their contact. Tara's free hand began wandering of its own accord, tracing a path up Willow's chest, where she fought with the buttons of the girl's heavy wool coat. She demanded access to the softness and warmth inside. Willow moaned without breaking the kiss and helped Tara with the buttons, pulling roughly at them, as she pressed her hips into Tara's. Willow shrugged out of her coat, which dropped to the ground behind her. Tara took the opening to run her hand up under Willow's shirt, across the smooth skin of her stomach and lightly across her breasts. Willow broke the kiss with a gasp--but only momentarily.

Before today, Tara had never let her hands wander over another woman's body. She loved the delicateness she found there. Just as she loved the sensation of impossibly soft lips, skin, hands. Even inside, Willow was incredibly soft, warm, smooth. The scent of her was new, familiar and intoxicating. Tara felt her own breathing quicken. An eagerness to undress and be undressed overtook her and she applied herself toward the goal of liberating them both of their clothing as quickly as possible. Tara could see a whole chain of events unfold before her: She would gather Willow up in her arms, wrap the woman's legs around her waist and carry her bodily into the bedroom. That would be the first order of business. From there, Tara would throw her down on the bed, pin her down there and fuck her until her eyes grew wide and scared and she screamed Tara's name. As if understanding what Tara wanted, Willow yanked Tara's coat off, running hands under her shirt to the clasp of her bra, which she opened expertly. Willow's eyes were intense with need, her kiss-swollen lips searching out Tara's mouth again with a tenderness that belied the urgency of their mutual disrobing. Tara wanted to feel that soft mouth, those tender kisses, in many, many places, but first she wanted to wield raw power over her new lover. She was sketchy on the details of exactly what she wanted to do to Willow, but she imagined this is how if she were a man she might feel, this hunger--this all consuming need to press inside, possess and swallow everything Willow could give her, every bit of welcoming openness, every bit of resistance and delicious friction and muscular release.

Willow was still half-clothed, but it didn't matter. Tara grabbed the girl's thigh and drew it up around her own waist. Tara had become impatient. Willow leaned hard into her and began moving her hips. Tara groaned and bit at Willow's throat. Willow wrapped both legs firmly around Tara, and Tara was suddenly thankful that her back was still against the wall, so she could bear the weight and the motion, the glorious grinding of Willow. "Please..." Willow whispered. "I need..."

Tara growled, "I want."

"What is it you want, baby?" Another mischievous question of Willow's.

"You know."

"Say it. I want to hear you say it."

Tara lifted Willow and spun them around so now it was Willow's back against the wall and Tara was pushing hard into her, matching her rhythm. Willow's eyes were wide with surprise and excitement at the physical roughness. Tara was fairly sure she was going to skip the part about carrying her to the bedroom and have her right here instead. Or maybe on the dining room table.

"What is it you want, Tara?" Willow panted between Tara's thrusts.

Tara wanted everything, all of her, all at once. Tara wanted Willow almost savagely. She wanted her to writhe and resist, to come and collapse, thoroughly wrung out and sated, conquered by the power of Tara's own hand. She wanted to do this to Willow, and she wanted Willow to know this.

"I am going to fuck you," Tara said with great conviction. The words produced their desired effect. Fear and lust flickered in the girl’s eyes. Tara thrust hard, pressing Willow's back up the wall. She positioned herself so that each stroke produced just the right friction, the right pulse between Willow's opened legs. And every thrust produced a muffled slam as Willow's back rubbed against the woodwork, steady as a drumbeat.

"Fuck me?" Willow asked, with a little difficulty.

"Fucking: That's me giving it to you and you taking it until you can't any more. I want to fuck you--scary, messy, crazy. Hard."

"I want you to. I want it." Willow bent down and bit Tara's ear. "No mercy," she whispered.

Tara hefted the weight of Willow up in her arms, the girl's legs locked around her waist, and started toward the bedroom. Yes, for the things she wanted to do to Willow she wanted her lying down.

It was the clatter of a cup in the kitchen that brought the whole thing to a stop. They came to a standstill, breathing heavily, not moving, both straining to hear. There was another scrape and then a voice. "Tara, is that you?"

With a quick glance around the darkened apartment, Tara finally noticed the uniform hat and coat on the back of the couch and the light on in the kitchen. Shit! It was her brother Donald. Willow clawed her way back to the floor and straightened her clothes, while Tara tried to steady herself--or at least slow her breathing.

"Donald?" she called in reply. Her voice was more steady than she could have imagined possible. "Is that you?" A quick glance at Willow assured her that that the girl was more than a bit surprised, but composed enough for introductions. To anyone else the flush of Willow's cheeks and the redness of her lips might have been a dead give-away. But a soldier like Donald probably thought all women looked that way: He was simply going to find Willow adorable.

Her brother strode out of the kitchen and into the darkened dining room between them. He reached for a lamp and flicked it on. "I didn't hear you come in. I was making some tea." He stopped short, noticing Willow. Tara could tell he was surprised, and he liked what he saw.

"Hello," he said, politely, almost boyishly. "I didn't know you had company."

Tara stepped forward. "Donald, this is Wilma Hermann. She's a friend. She's staying with me here. Her apartment was destroyed in the last air raid."

"Fucking Brits," Donald spat. He stood tall and extended a hand to Willow. "Welcome to our home, Miss Hermann. I hope you'll be comfortable here."

Willow answered shyly. Or perhaps she was shell-shocked to find a stranger in a place that had become a private sanctuary. "Tara's made me feel very welcomed, thank you. Uh, I've been staying in your room. I hope you don't mind."

The look on his face told Tara she'd had him pegged. She could tell he liked the notion of a pretty girl sharing his bed--even if the thrill of it was vicarious. She quickly visualized the room with its messy sheets and was thankful she'd stripped the bed this morning.

"No problem," he said. "I'll only be home a few days and then it's back to the Front." He turned to Tara. "Where are the boys?"

"I sent them out to the country to stay with Beth. I thought it was too dangerous. I- I didn't know you were coming, or I'd have made arrangements for them to be here."

He looked a bit disappointed, but nodded just the same. "No it's a wise choice keeping them safe out there, just for a little longer. Until things have settled down. Those Brits have severely underestimated our German resolve. They'll recognize that soon enough."

Then his eye caught the glint of Tara's ring in the lamplight. "What's this, Tara? A ring?"

Tara was beginning to tire already of everybody making a big deal out of the ring. They were all too happy for her, when she herself felt...ambivalent. The stricken look on Willow's face told her everything she needed to know about Willow's feelings on the matter.

But Donald was elated. His sister, who was practically an old maid, was finally getting married. What a relief. He ducked back into the kitchen and retrieved the bottle of scotch, shaking the contents with a frown. "Looks like someone's been partaking," he said good-naturedly enough.

"Things have been a bit touch-and-go around here lately," Tara smiled.

##

Donald set out three shot glasses at the dining room table and gestured for the ladies to join him. The wooden chair creaked as he sat down, resting his elbows heavily on the table. He was a big guy with strong forearms. His hands were battle-scratched and roughened. Tara was his opposite: quiet, delicate, serene and smooth. Donald was swaggery and tough. Still, despite the polar opposites, there was something about him that was so familiar as Tara. Willow never had a sibling. She'd only appreciated from a distance the randomness of genetics that allowed two people to be at once similar and different in this way.

"So, Wilma," he said with a charming wink, or what might have passed for charm if she were a different kind of girl--one who went in for big, strong men. "Do you have a boyfriend?"

Willow almost spit scotch across the table. She swallowed hard, and the hot liquor scorched its way down, radiating its heat from her belly. "Uh, no," she replied, politely, meeting his eyes with as sweet a smile as she could muster. She could sense Tara's discomfort with the line of conversation. "Uh, there is someone I have my eye on, though."

It was Tara's turn to cough and sputter her liquor.

Donald gazed contemplatively at Willow a moment, then let out a hearty laugh, tipping the bottle to fill her glass again. He raised his glass in toast. "Well, as long as there is love in this world, the Reich will stay strong."

He slugged his shot and then got on a roll, verbally: "I dare say that things are a hell of a lot better here now that the dirty Jews are practically eradicated. We've chased them out of our cities and farmlands, and we're beaten them back across Poland. All the scourge that's weakened the master race. The slate is clean. And it's on the shoulders of you, Tara, and you, Wilma, to produce the next generation to carry us to greatness."

Willow certainly got enough Nazi party line bullshit at work. But this was different, here in what was beginning to feel like her home, a supposed safe place. Her cheeks flushed hotly. Yeah, the slate was clean. The Jews were fewer by the millions, cornered and trapped, unable to flee, accepted nowhere. Willow's life was swept clean, as well. Just a small woman overlooked so far. A coward. Living and hiding while everyone else she knew and grew up with--her family included--was dead or disappeared.

Tara opened her mouth, and Willow found herself hanging to see what her lover would say, where she would weigh in.

"They- they took away our neighbors across the hall last month. The Schraders," Tara said. "It ended up that they were Jews after all. Schrader wasn't even their last name. It was Schragenheim."

"Ha!" her brother beat his hand on the table. "We were right about them. You said they smelled like Jews."

Willow was alternately deeply appalled and bitterly angry. The irony wasn't lost on her, either. "Well, I certainly would never have believed one's sense of smell could be so finely tuned," Willow managed, slipping the second shot of scotch down her throat. Huh. So this was hiding in safety. Why did she suddenly feel so not-safe?

Donald turned to his sister. "I'm proud of you, Tara. You were the one who turned them over to protective custody, then?"

Euphemism! Willow pondered that she could kill herself of alcohol poisoning if she played the Nazi euphemism drinking game.

"I- I think I mentioned something to Riley. Just wondering," Tara shrugged. "He has friends with the SS. The whole affair was rather civil, really."

Of course, how civil it must have been. The Schragenheims had no choice but to go or be shot. They must have gone with their heads high to god knows where. Willow's mouth had a metallic taste. When her own time came, would she go as civilly? Or would she rather be shot? Or would she even have a choice in the matter. She thought about it.

"How about another drink, Donald?" Willow asked, at last. More euphemisms were surely coming.

Donald chuckled appreciatively. He liked Willow. "Now, here's a strong German woman. We need many more like you."

"Believe me, there just aren't many more like me," she replied.

"This war will toughen many Good Germans. We'll bend, sure, but we'll never be broken."

Indeed, Willow could agree with that. She'd bend. And she had. But she'd never break, damn his Nazi ass.

"So when did you become a soldier, Donald?" Willow asked. She had a hunch.

"I joined the Hitler Youth as a young teen," he grinned proudly. Bingo. She'd had him pegged. That much indoctrination followed by military service was usually a dead give-away.

"So your family must be big supporters of the Fuhrer, then, I expect," Willow's voice was even. She was detaching. She felt herself floating.

"Our father joined the Party back in 1933. He was a field leader in the town where we grew up."

"Wil- Wilma works for The People's Press," Tara smiled, offering up evidence of Willow's Nazi street cred.

Donald beamed at her as if they were family. She was on the inside. She understood. "That's really great," he said warmly. "It's a shame you have to work, though. Your fella--the one you're sweet on. Is he a soldier, then?"

"No," Willow replied from some inner reserve of bullshit. "Just a Good German, is all."

"So, do you think you'll marry him?"

Willow slammed what would be her last shot of scotch this evening down her throat, placed her glass down firmly and replied with a flat: "No." She didn't dare look at Tara. She couldn't.

She addressed Donald. "Hey, I'm feeling pretty tired. I think I'll turn in, if that's ok."

Donald looked a bit disappointed, clearly enjoying the female company. But then nodded amiably enough.

"Ah," Willow continued. "Donald, why don't you take your bedroom. Please. You're only in town a short time, and it's the least comfort I can give someone who's putting his life on the line every day to protect our homeland. Is there another room? The boys' room, perhaps, that I might stay in?"

Tara fairly leapt from the table, moving a bit too quickly down the hall.

"If you don't mind," Donald said with a sweet smile, "It would be nice to rest in my own room."

"I don't mind," Willow replied.

Let him sleep in that bed and see how good his nose is at smelling Jews.

##

Willow imagined that she couldn't possibly feel more foolish. She was tucked in a child's bed: the lower bunk of an undersized bunk-bed. She was curled on her side under a comforter covered in embroidered stars, gazing vacantly out the unshuttered window at a full moon that stared back, equally blank and cold. In the shadows around the room she could make out the shapes of toys--toy bears and toy tanks, wooden blocks.

This had been one of the most surreal days, a cap to one of the most surreal months of her life. This morning, she had opened herself up completely, met another person completely, and poured herself into the experience with everything she had. She'd spent a wonderfully normal afternoon with the two people she loved most in the world and whom she missed miserably. And then this evening reality threw a huge wrecking ball through the middle of it.

She could tell that Tara didn't understand what happened, why Willow didn't slip down the hall in the dark and join her now. She simply couldn't. The fire just wasn't there.

##

Humboldt University was in mayhem. Buffy walked into the building, headed toward biology class as usual and encountered an unsettling scene: students clutching books, scattering in panic--or at least on the verge of panic--dispersing as if an army had just marched into the place with rifles drawn. Her heart pounded with confused fear, her senses heightened. She couldn't see the threat.

She grabbed the sleeve of a fellow student as he dashed by. "What's happening?" she asked.

He looked at her urgently. "Gestapo. They're rounding up students."

“Shit!”

A rifle crack from the direction of the courtyard outside yanked their attention away. Buffy released the student's arm. He scrambled out the doors. Buffy didn't follow. Instead, she moved against the current of bodies rushing to escape and toward a bank of windows that looked out on the courtyard.

There, in the rain, were a handful of men in long overcoats and two soldiers, all with guns drawn. A line of five students stood shocked before them. Two others lay motionless on the ground. A plainclothes man was flipping though the identification papers of one of the slain students. He tossed them onto the body and turned to one of his comrades for a discussion.

"Double shit!" Buffy breathed, fear and anger rising inside her. Spike had promised to warn her when the "example-making" started. He'd promised to give her the high sign, so she could get out of harm's way. She scanned the police's faces. Were any of them him? Was Spike involved in this? No. She felt a small wave of relief to know he wasn't there.

Then another commotion erupted and her eyes caught sight of something that sent her blood running cold. They'd grabbed another student, this one a woman. Dark hair, dark eyes flashing, resisting with more than a bit of struggle. Buffy could tell she was throwing expletives at them. "Faith!" Buffy nearly yelled, her heart lurching. The men roughly searched her coat for her identification, ripping it from her as if unafraid of tearing off a limb while they were at it. Buffy's palms were pressed flat against the cold glass. Her heart pounded so hard that she thought it might stop altogether. "No," she groaned, helplessly. "Faith!"

The men shoved the young woman down with a splash as her knees hit a puddle in the gathering rain. She kneeled beside the other two slain students. Buffy could almost hear the long line of profanity her friend continued hurling at her interrogators. One of the plainclothes men said something to her that made her shut up and her face pale. "No," Buffy groaned, scraping the glass with her fingers, willing herself to watch.

On what must have been a command, one of the soldiers stepped forward and clocked Buffy’s friend in the chin with his rifle stock. She recoiled from the force but remained on her knees. Faith was one tough girl. She spat blood and looked back at the cops, her eyes scared. She answered a question with a couple of words and a helpless shrug.

The soldier raised his rifle and shot her in the head.

Buffy's body shook with the reverberation of the sound that split the air like a lightning crack. Faith's body wavered a heartbeat, and then toppled forward, landing face down beside the other two. A spray of blood spattered across the remaining four students, whose faces were absolutely stricken with fear, grief and repulsion. Buffy felt herself begin to slide down the glass, lightheaded.

A firm hand clutched her shoulder just then and spun her around roughly. She found herself staring at Spike through cold tears. She gave a start. But while Spike's manner was rough, his eyes were not: They were concerned and more than a bit scared. Over his shoulder, Buffy saw another plainclothes man. This one taller, square-jawed, black-eyed and smiling grimly.

"Your identification, please," Spike demanded. He held out his hand for it. Buffy dug through her breast pocket vacantly, tears rolling down her cheeks until her shaking fingers found it. She handed the papers to him. Spike flipped them open and inspected them, glancing at the photo of her there and seeming to compare it to the woman before him.

He said to the man behind him, "A Gertrude Geist. G-e-i-s-t."

The other man scratched down the name in a notepad and then spoke up, his tone arch. "Miss Geist. You must forgive what you see out there." He gestured toward the window. "Believe it or not, some of your classmates are enemies of the state, seditionists. They would undermine the authority of the Reich and unfortunately risk the safety of us all. As is often the case throughout history. The young can be extremely naïve. And stupid."

Buffy nodded, too dumb with shock and grief to speak.

Spike handed the papers back to her.

The other man stepped forward, pulling something from his pocket: a photograph, which he held up for her inspection. Buffy's eyes darted to it and fought to keep her expression impassive. It was Willow.

"Do you know this woman?"

She shook her head no. "Is she a- a student here, maybe?" she ventured with as much uncertainty as she could muster.

"You've never seen her before," the man pressed.

Spike's expression was very serious, but he said nothing.

Another rifle crack from the courtyard caused them all to flinch.

"No, I don't know her," Buffy said quickly, wracked with fear. "Please. I'm scared. I want to leave."

"We're not going to get much from the rest of the students here today," Spike told his partner, the tall, grim-faced man with the black eyes. "Let's call it a day."

A nod.

Buffy gently slid past them and rushed back toward the double-doors to the street.

The other man called out to her one last time. "I know this is upsetting, Miss Geist, but Good Germans have nothing to fear."

Buffy willed herself not to stop, not to hesitate, not to shake. She plowed through the double doors and practically ran down the block, stopping mid-way to fall to her knees and vomit. In the space of five minutes she'd learned many things:

That her friend Faith was dead: one of the first batch of student dissidents rounded up by the police. That if the Gestapo had Faith, then they'd certainly have already caught up with Jenny, since Buffy had sent Jenny to stay with her. That Spike and his partner were hunting Willow, and they even had a photo of her. That they were looking for Buffy herself, too.

And she suspected that they were not above gunning down any of their quarry in broad daylight.

Buffy couldn't stop crying. The common denominator in all of this was her.

##

The newsroom was all a-scramble. News flashes were coming in. Willow stood in Gruber's office and watched the confusion through the glass windows that separated his office from the newsroom. From inside here the air was calmer, but not by much. Calls were coming in that the SS was moving to arrest student dissidents. Gruber was on the phone, and Willow was jotting notes as he barked statistics at her.

"They rounded up seven at Humbolt."

Willow's pencil scratched the information with a shaky hand.

"Four more are still at large."

She noted that, too, nodding seriously.

Gruber handed the phone to her. "Miss Hermann, please take down the rest of the information and see that the newsroom gets it." He was a man of short patience for details. Funny that he should be running a news organization. Well, except this wasn't a news-gathering-fact-checking type of operation. It was really more of a print-all-the-information-you're-given newspaper. Reporters here didn't ask questions, unless it was to check spelling, which is what Gruber was putting her in charge of doing right now.

She accepted the phone, scooting into the desk chair Gruber vacated so he could go stalk the floor of the newsroom. "Hello?" she said with a small voice. "This is Wilma Hermann, Mr. Gruber's copy editor. I'm ready to take down your information now."

She frowned as the man on the other end of the line gave her the names of those arrested. Five men and two women. To her relief, she didn't recognize any of the names. She double-checked spellings.

"Did I hear correctly that the seven were arrested, sir?" she asked. The man said yes.

"May- may I ask where they were taken?"

There was a long pause.

"I'm only asking in the event Mr. Gruber thinks it's relevant to the story."

The source would not answer.

"Ok," Willow said, gingerly. "I'm happy to take the names of the seditionists still at large if you have them." She paused. "So that people in the community can come forward with information to aid in their arrests."

The man answered, then.

Willow faithfully wrote each one until her heart stopped. Buffy. With a shaky hand, she purposely wrote the name Betty instead. After she had all of the information and had hung up the phone, she looked at the names on the paper before her.

Should I give them the names of the ones still at large? If I don't, will the source know I discarded them? Will he call Gruber? Will Gruber wonder what's up with me? Will he and his Gestapo buddies do a little looking into Wilma Hermann? Will Xander get in trouble for signing false documents for me? Will they give us both the euphemism treatment?

Her mind set, she carefully recopied all of the information on another sheet of paper. When she came to the names of the students still at large, she intentionally misspelled each one. She could honestly claim there was too much commotion in the newsroom to hear properly.

She sat stunned a moment, scared for Buffy. She picked up Gruber's phone and dialed Buffy's house. Dawn answered. Willow froze. She didn't know how to announce herself to Buffy's sister. She decided to go with the familiar.

"Dawnie, hi, it's Willow. Is- is Buffy there? I need to talk to her."

She wasn't.

"Can you- can you please have her call me? It's really important. She knows where to reach me."

She hung up, feeling panicky now. She dialed Xander's office next. Fortunately, he was there.

"Harris speaking."

"Xander, it's me."

A pause, and then a surprised: "Wilma?"

"It's about Buffy." She kept her eyes on the door to Gruber's office, thankful for a few more moments of privacy. "She's on a list. I need to warn her. Do you know how to get word to her? She's not at home."

"She already called me," he said, carefully. "She knows. She was there."

"But she's all right?"

"Yes," Xander said unequivocally. There wasn't much more they could say since neither could trust they wouldn't be overheard.

"Call me later, at Tara's?"

He promised he would. She hung up feeling better. A little better, anyway. She stood and walked like a Good German into the belly of the newsroom bearing the piece of paper that announced the death sentences--if not already the deaths--of seven people. And gave four at least a slim measure of a chance.

##

Willow opened the door to the apartment to find Tara there waiting for her, with anxious face. She must have heard the footsteps on the stairs. Enacting her ritual greeting, Willow extended her hand, uncurling her fingers to reveal...nothing. Tara at first looked confused and then a warm smile spread slowly across her face. The offering that Willow was bringing her today was...Willow. Tara accepted the hand in her own with affectionate rubbing and a small kiss. Willow's smile was radiant. Tara seemed much relieved.

Willow hated how last night had ended with her storming off to sleep in the kids' room, with no explanation for what had set her off. And then this morning, Willow had left the house early before Tara or Donald were even up. She'd had a whole day and half an evening to acclimate to the reality that the siblings were the product of about a decade of bigoted propaganda and that their dismissal of the Jews as a scourge was simply expedient. Had the Nazis had it in for the Irish, they would have hated all things Irish--made lepers out of leprechauns. She was here to play a part. And if she played it well enough, maybe she'd get to live.

Besides, tonight she was more concerned about Buffy. So it wasn't difficult to push aside the Jewish thing and just appreciate this beautiful woman who was making kind of naughty eyes at her.

A loud cough from the parlour interrupted their more-than-friends moment. Oh, yeah. Him. Donald was still here, of course, taking up space. Willow pulled on her best Wilma face, took off her coat and followed Tara into the living room. When not in uniform, Donald looked like any other guy you'd pass on the streets of Berlin. You'd hardly give him a second look. Well, certainly Willow wouldn't because she'd never had much of an eye for boys. But she thought he sat rather averagely in his armchair with the evening paper spread open before him. The People's Press, of course. The radio was on, too. Tara had been listening to the news. Blah, blah, blah, said the radio.

Donald eyed Willow appreciatively. "Wilma! Missed you this morning, love," he said a bit too familiarly.

"Big news day," Willow shrugged.

"Busted a nest of political dissidents. It's all here in the paper. Makes it a great day in my book," Donald smiled pleasantly.

Tara still had a hold of Willow's hand and now pulled her surreptitiously into the kitchen. Willow almost had to trot to keep up with her. Once around the corner, Willow thoroughly expected a kiss. What she got instead was a very serious look of concern from Tara.

"The st- students at Humbolt. Do you think Buffy knew them?"

Willow blinked. Was Tara showing concern or paranoia? She honestly didn't know the woman well enough to tell.

"I'm not sure," Willow answered honestly.

"God, I hope not," Tara breathed. Again, Willow couldn't tell where she stood on the issue. She waited awkwardly to see what came next.

"Have you talked to her? Is she all right?"

Willow almost let out a sigh of relief, realizing that whatever her ideology, Tara was a human, caring person. She must be concerned that Buffy might be upset about police and arrests and guns and other very non-university activity.

"Xander talked to her," Willow said. "He said she's ok. Kinda surprised and shaken up about it all. We were both at work. There wasn't really time to get much in the way of details." A pause, and then she remembered, "Oh! But he said he'd phone us here tonight. He might know more."

Tara rubbed Willow's shoulders, leaning close. The rubbing felt good. It loosened tenseness Willow had hardly noticed she'd been carrying. "You should invite her over here. She might need your company," Tara was saying. Willow nodded. She wanted to see Buffy and know she was ok.

"I called her house and she wasn't there."

Tara kissed Willow's worried forehead. "She's welcome here any time."

They hugged, swaying together a bit. Tara buried her face in Willow's hair, her breath warming Willow's neck.

"You smell good," Tara mumbled. Her lips tickled Willow’s skin.

##

"I'll take this one," Spike said, dropping his cigarette and grinding it into the wet pavement. He and Caleb stood outside a house rented by university students. The light from the windows was warm and homey. Caleb nodded soberly. He'd cleared out the last two places. It was fair to give his partner one. "Be my guest," he said. "My turn to stand around smoking and doing nothing."

Spike threw up his arms in disgust. "What's your problem, Caleb? We can't stand around looking all menacing, or we wouldn't be 'secret police,' now, would we? Average Joes smoke when they're out for an evening stroll."

"Down, soldier," Caleb smiled. "I'm enjoying our evening stroll."

Spike glared at him and knew it was true. For an evil whack job like Caleb, executing a bunch of college students was fun. "Just stay out here. If I need help, I'll give a whistle," Spike growled.

Caleb raised his hands and waved good-naturedly. "See you soon. Happy hunting. I'll just slip around and cover the back."

"You do that." Spike turned on heel, straightened his hat and marched up to the front door. He took a deep breath and rapped lightly. A friendly, neighborly knock-knock. Not the usual Gestapo-style chest-rattling pound-of-intimidation. He didn't want his prey to spook. But he had to be quick: Any moment now the evening papers would be hitting curbside announcing this morning's dirty work. And in about an hour, the radio show would come on with news of the day's events. No, right now, he was just knocking neighborly.

He could see the shadow of someone moving behind the curtains. He removed his hat. Gestapo always wore hats. Heck, he'd drop the overcoat, too. He slipped his pistol in the back waistband of his trousers. He looked about as harmless as an evil guy like him could, in just his shirt and tie.

The doorknob gave a subtle jiggle that announced the weight of a hand on the other side. Spike caught his breath. "Come on," he whispered to himself. It was cold out.

"Hey, there. It's cold out here," he said aloud to the person indoors. "I'm looking for Faith. Is she home?"

A moment later, the door swung inward slightly. A woman was silhouetted against the warm light within. He let the glow illuminate his face, which he expressioned to be innocent and friendly. He was pretty sure he was looking at Buffy's friend Jenny.

He shivered a bit, to make a good show. "Um, she said she'd meet me." He looked at his watch. "Yeah, she said she'd meet me at the coffee shop a half hour ago, but she didn't show up. I figured she might have forgot."

"She's not here right now," the woman said carefully, but Spike could tell he had her. "Do you mind if I wait a few minutes?" he asked in his best school-boy voice.

The woman acquiesced, swinging open the door and inviting him in. The light caught her fully, and it was, indeed, the fugitive Gypsy Jenny. He stepped politely inside. She was a lovely creature, dark, a bit flinty, and womanly as well. She smiled. He might have liked getting to know this woman, if circumstances were different.

"Have a seat. Can I make you some tea..."

"William," Spike supplied. "And, yes, it's a bit cold out there. Tea would be most appreciated." They smiled at each other in a friendly, neighborly way.

She turned toward the kitchen.

He switched off the light.

She stopped cold in her tracks. "Shit," he could hear her say under her breath. She said it like she knew she'd been stupid. Spike couldn't help her there. She had been.

She turned slowly and saw the gun in his hand trained at her head.

"What do you want?" she asked, her voice barely a whisper.

"You're Jenny Calendar."

"And that means, what? You're Gestapo?"

"That's right."

"I'm fucked."

Spike quirked a smile at that. He liked a lady who swore. Especially a smart and pretty lady. "It's true. My partner's outside covering the back in case you decide to make a hasty exit. Although I think you'd be wise to stay here with me. I'm not half the beast he is."

Jenny frowned. "I'll go with you. Into protective custody, or whatever you call it. Please don't drag Faith into this. She doesn't know anything. I mean, I wasn't up front with her. She thinks I'm just her roommate."

Spike admired Jenny's chivalry. "Faith is dead," he said, watching Jenny's face drop and then mentally kicking himself. He told himself he wasn't going to be cruel. "Not because of you, Jenny," he quickly added. "You mustn't blame yourself. She was arrested by police this morning at the university. For sedition. If anything, it's because of her that we found you."

Jenny stared up at the ceiling. Spike took a step closer. The gun was now within inches of the woman's forehead. She was crying. Tears slipped down her cheeks.

"So," she ventured. "I guess you're not exactly here to arrest me, are you?"

"I'm afraid I'm not," Spike said softly. "But then I think you knew that right away."

She nodded.

Spike continued. "I want to make this easier for you. That's why I made my asshole partner stay outside. He'd have just blasted through the door and been done with the whole thing in a hail of bullets."

"So instead you're here for, what? Verbal torture instead? Just fucking shoot me."

This wasn't exactly going the way Spike intended.

"I didn't want to find you. I kind of tried not to," he confessed. "I have this job, though. Trouble is, I'm a friend of Buffy's. And I know it's kind of whacked, but I swore to myself I'd be humane with the people she knows."

Jenny laughed. "Humane? Come on, William, if that's even your name. Just fucking do what you came to do. Your so-called job." She made a grab for the gun, to force his hand, to make him shoot her. He hit her in the face with it instead.

"Ok," she said, bent over and clutching a bleeding jaw. "That hurt." She straightened and stared him straight in the eyes. "So, you want that tea, then?"

He chuckled at the absurdity of it all. After a moment, she chuckled, too. "So what's your 'humane' plan?" she asked. Spike shifted on his feet. He hadn't thought about the fact there might be options--or that she might be open to brainstorming with him.

"Well, I was just going to shoot you. Nicely," he said, aware that the words sounded extremely stupid.

She laughed out loud again. Damn, but if circumstances were different, he thought.

Jenny clapped her hands together. "I know!" she exclaimed, a bit too brightly. "Why don't you fuck me and then strangle me?" He couldn't tell if she was joking, but he kind of liked the picture it brought to mind.

He shook his head. "How about a big bottle of scotch or vodka or gin or whatever your roomie Faith has lying around? You get nice and buzzed and feeling no pain, and I promise to make it quick and clean."

Jenny gazed at him sharply a moment and then nodded. "I could use a drink," she sighed, turning to the kitchen again. He had half a mind to shoot her then, execution-style in the back of the head. But he hesitated. And the moment was lost. Shit. Caleb was probably out there getting impatient, ready to knock the windows out. He had to finish his fucking so-called job.

In the kitchen, Jenny pulled a large bottle of vodka down from the high shelf and took a long draw straight from the bottle. Funny how he had her pegged for a drinker. She turned, bottle in hand, and offered him some. "If these are my last moments on earth, please don't let me drink alone." She was razzing him, of course. But there was a grain of sincerity there, too. Spike accepted the bottle and took a quick swig, enjoying the afterburn. He handed the bottle back to Jenny, who took another long draw. He watched the bubbles rise as she swallowed. Yeah, she was a drinker.

"Feeling better?" he asked, solicitously, as if he might be asking a patient in an infirmary if she might like another pillow.

Jenny sat at the kitchen table and placed the bottle down in front of her. "I used to be a schoolteacher." She said the words aloud, but it didn't really feel like it was for Spike's benefit. "I used to play violin. I was really a very good dancer. And I loved a man who gave up his life so he could stay here in Germany with me because I couldn't leave. I would have given anything to leave."

There was a pause and then: "Turn out the light."

Spike moved to the wall and pushed the switch. When he turned around, Jenny's back was to him. She was sitting still, her hands flat on the table before her.

He raised the gun. She certainly must have heard the sound of his sleeve moving, but if she did she didn't flinch. Her breathing was steady. She was waiting. He didn't want to keep her waiting long: That would be cruel.

He fired one shot and it was done.


##

The night was amazingly quiet. The only sounds Xander could hear were their footsteps on the pavement. He held Buffy's hand tightly as they made their way to Faith's house. It wasn't a good idea, he knew, to be out here like this and going where they were headed. But Buffy had been so upset and all that would console her was having a job to do: She had to know. So Xander had offered to accompany her. He was conveniently dressed in his SS uniform, so that they might pass as a Good German couple out for a romantic stroll. After curfew.

He was making up stories in his mind in case they were stopped. Time had slipped away. He had to get her home or her father would have his hide. Stuff like that. He worried about her papers. If they were stopped they'd know she was one of the student insurgents.

Insurgents! For handing out a few flyers around campus Buffy was subject to forfeit her life. Certainly everyone knew that with the secret police running about it wasn't safe directly criticizing the government. Hell, the daily work of his own division of the SS was to take down information from citizen informants, who for most purposes, were either paranoid or hateful and certainly not above reporting their neighbors for any number of suspicious reasons, real or fabricated. The plainclothes men of the Gestapo generally were sent out to research some of the more egregious-sounding of these. The rest got filed away for future sussing out. Right now it was clear someone had it in for a few college kids. Or were there many? Buffy said that another friend of hers in the SS had made it sound like there would be a real housecleaning over at the universities. If someone as small-time as Buffy was on the list, there must be a long, long list of names the police intended to tick through.

"It's this way," Buffy whispered. She'd been remote and zombie-like ever since she'd appeared on his doorstep earlier in the evening. He'd been surprised to see her. But she'd had nowhere else to go. Xander turned the corner with her.

"That's it up ahead."

A small graystone place with darkened windows. They moved slowly to the front door. Buffy gave Xander a worried look, then composed herself and rapped lightly on the door.

"I sure hope we're not, you know, interrupting anything...important," Xander chattered nervously. Buffy hesitated, listening intently. He had a point. She decided not to knock again.

"Help me find a window."

Xander followed her around the perimeter of the place, stopping to tug at each sash, but it being winter and all, none of the windows were open. On the backside of the house one of the windows was illuminated by a light. "Give me a boost up," Buffy said. "I want to see in."

Xander stepped up and cupped his hands together to form a foothold for her. Buffy weighed nothing, and he almost propelled her skyward. "Watch it," she yelped. Hands firm on the window-ledge, she pulled herself up to look in. Xander held her legs from below.

A heartbeat and then: "Ok. Let me down. Let me down!" Her whisper was urgent, like she'd seen a ghost, and Xander almost dropped her in his haste to comply with her command.

On the ground, she doubled over. "Oh, my god, Xander....Willow."

Xander was confused, "Willow is in there?"

Buffy shook her head, straightening and running nervous hands through her hair. "Nobody's there...but so much blood. I- I think that was Jenny. And- and if they'd do that to Jenny..."

Xander couldn't meet her eyes, but he could finish the thought: "Then they'd do that to Willow...and you."

Buffy was moving back around the place again with great purposefulness. "We gotta get in there."

He grabbed her arm. "Whoa! Wait a minute. I say we get the hell out of here. What more can we possibly do?"

Buffy spun on him. "I'm sure they sacked the place. I have to see what they took. Faith...had records. She kept them in a notebook. I know I'd recognize it if I saw it. People's names, dates, plans. If they have all that, then I've got to find a way to put a warning out."

“Forget the notebook. Your life isn’t worth some paper. Put a warning out anyway.”

A movement from inside the house startled them both into silence.

"Someone's in there," Xander hissed, bodily dragging Buffy with him as they retreated to a safe place around the corner.

After a moment or two, the front door swung open and three men came out. Two in soldier uniforms and one plainclothes. Buffy and Xander both recognized the Gestapo officer.

"Shit. That's the guy who stopped me today," Buffy said, leaning flat against the wall as if he'd just swung a search beam at them.

Xander looked closely. "That guy works out of my office. We all call him Preacher Caleb. Used to be a man of the cloth. Now he's, you know, more a man of the plainclothes. And just about the nastiest one of them. And 'nasty' is actually saying a lot, since it's in the job description."

He turned to Buffy, adding: "By the way, he hates women, too."

Buffy's voice was distant and small. "He has Willow's photo."

The muscle in Xander's jaw flexed. "Don't worry. He won't find her. Tara's a very Good German. And so's Wilma."

Another plainclothes man came out of the building, stopping a moment to light a cigarette. He looked tired.

Buffy gasped and her body went rigid. She nodded toward him. "That's our problem: I know that one."

Xander spun: "William Blood?"

"I- I know him by another name. He goes by Spike."

Xander pondered this. "Huh. Everybody's gotta be a Big Bad these days. As if Blood isn't a name that’s Big and Bad enough," He sighed. He turned to Buffy, shaking a finger at her. "And I'm not even going to ask how you know him." He paused for dramatic effect. Buffy refused to take the bait.

"You know, despite the war, there are still plenty of decent guys a girl could go out with."

"We're not going out."

"Fine. And I'm guessing he has you calling him Spike because--why?"

Buffy glared.

"Ok, so he's not as bad a Caleb, but then that's hugely relative. It's like we're talking about one serial murderer being less bad than another." He paused. "Actually, that's a pretty good analogy."

"He saved me," Buffy whispered. "When he took my ID, he told the other guy I was someone else."

"Nice. But you can't count on him to do it again. Caleb would gun him down just as fast as he would, um, just about anyone. They're all a bit...twitchy like that. I'm going to need to get you some new papers. And you're going to have to wear a hat. Maybe forever."

"Willow's got my hat."

"And, yes, dear, Willow should wear a hat, too. I'll buy you a new one."

"Can it be something saucy?"

"I was thinking about something less stylish and more, uh, unconventional."

Buffy raised an eyebrow. But Xander remained tight-lipped. She wasn't going to like his idea, and he could tell she already knew that.

He changed the subject. "Now what's going on?"

They watched as the two soldiers went back into the house and came out again with a body bag, carrying it heavily between the two of them. Caleb and Spike fell in beside them and the four walked quietly to a parked police truck, where they loaded the package inside a bit roughly, but, then, hey, Jenny was dead anyway. They got inside and drove away.

The sight raised the hair on the back of his neck. After a long moment, Xander spoke up, with some difficulty: "I'll be an extremely happy man if I never see anything remotely like that again."

"We're done here." Buffy's tone was more world-weary than any twenty-year-old deserved to be. The look seemed to be all the rage this year.

##


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 Post subject: Re: Night of Broken Glass --New Fic
PostPosted: Thu Sep 27, 2007 9:02 pm 
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2. Floating Rose
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Joined: Fri Sep 21, 2007 8:23 pm
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Location: Portland, Oregon
Sorry. Long post cut off. Here's the rest of Part 4


Night of Broken Glass--PART 4a



Willow and Tara had a new game to try: How quiet can you be? That was Tara's sultry question to shadow-Willow who had slipped silent as a cat into her darkened bedroom after everyone had retired for the evening.

The question hung between them for an awkward moment.

Willow stood in silhouette, absorbing Tara's question. "Uh, am I'm too loud?" Tara almost laughed and then ached at the uncertainty in Willow's voice, a tone that spoke volumes about the vulnerability her lover felt, being young and having no idea what she was doing, with a woman, no less, and one who was older and supposedly more knowledgeable.

Tara reached out and took her hand, silently cursing the fact that the darkness made it impossible for her to read Willow's expression. She hoped Willow could see her. If so, she'd certainly see nothing but the warmth and acceptance she felt.

"No, sweetie, you're not too loud."

She could hear Willow draw a breath of protestation, so she pre-empted her: "And I love every word. I- I've never had a lover talk to me like that. You make me feel completely with you, in the moment." Tara's voice grew shy. "And I find it amazingly sexy. Please don't ever stop talking to me."

"Except tonight," Willow chuckled.

Tara hugged her. "Yes, except tonight. I really don't want to have to explain to Donald."

Willow hugged her back. "And at the risk of sounding a bit old-fashioned, I really don't want any weird sibling stuff happening while I'm, uh, naked with you."

Tara rolled her eyes. "With you 100 percent on that."

Willow leaned in to kiss Tara and missed her mouth. The kiss landed somewhere on her cheek. It took a moment before she was able to orient herself in the blackness back to Tara's lips.

"Damn," she whispered. "I guess we're in for the Helen Keller experience."

Tara leaned back into the pillows, chuckling softly. “Ok, after a comment like that I think enforced silence might not be such a bad thing after all." She watched, enthralled as Willow in silhouette pulled the slip over her head, exposing the long expanses of smooth Willow-skin Tara knew were there, in spite of the darkness. The deprivation of sight heightened her other senses. She could pick up Willow's scent, faintly, that announced her arousal. And she detected the barely audible shallowness of her breathing.

Tara sat up and withdrew her own nightgown, tossing it off the bed. She reclined again, feeling the cold that chilled her flesh and hardened her nipples.

"You're so beautiful," Willow breathed.

"You can barely see me," Tara chuckled.

"Your- your skin--it's glowing. And if it's too dark to see, then it must be some kind of heavenly aura. Or what I imagine an aura would look like. If I were in Heaven. And if I were in Heaven, I'd be dead, right? So am I dead?"

"You don't sound very dead."

Then Tara could feel the depression of the mattress as Willow's knee pressed down and she climbed onto the bed. In fact, Tara could sense through her skin the motion of Willow as the girl moved over her, straddling without touching. She stretched out her body, so that she hovered just above the length of Tara. Heat passed between them, and Tara longed to close the gap. "We'll just see about this quiet business," Willow purred. "I may talk a lot, but I'm not the only one who's vocal. You have a lovely singing voice. I could listen to it again and again."

Tara sighed, "I do love to growl out a tune, it's true. You'll have to find some way to silence me."

This time Willow managed to find Tara's mouth just fine. But Tara was far from convinced kissing would be enough to keep her voice down. And she didn't know what she was going to do about Willow.

Particularly since she had a plan in mind that was calculated to knock her socks off. Not that Tara could be sure she was wearing socks, it being so dark and all.

"Baby, I want to kiss you," Tara breathed.

Willow settled her weight down on Tara, warming their skin. She ran a hand through Tara's hair. "You are kissing me, silly." Tara could feel Willow's breath on her cheek, warm and sweet.

"Oh, That's a kiss, eh?" Tara teased. "Your powers of non-visual observation must be keener than mine." Then she bodily lifted Willow and rolled her over so that Tara was on top. "But, I have other strengths. For example, I'm stronger than you are." From this vantage point, she could see that, in fact, what small amount of light came into the room did indeed illuminate skin--this time Willow's skin--glowing it a supernatural and highly-sheened silver.

Tara spread Willow's legs and moved herself between them. "Do you trust me?"

"I thought we weren't supposed to talk so much?"

"Fuck that, sweetie. I changed my mind. Just whisper." She leaned in close, her breasts gently covering Willow's and her body settling firmly between the girl's legs. "Do you trust me?" Tara repeated. She wanted to know the answer.

"Without hesitation," Willow breathed. Her eyes sparkled. In the reflected light of the darkened room they shone blue, but Tara had memorized their green, the way the color shifted depending upon the light and Willow's mood.

Tara covered Willow's mouth with her own, demanding entrance, which Willow gave her slowly, slowly. Tara smiled. This was going to be a fun game.

She pressed deep with a gentleness and insistence that told Willow Tara was in charge. Willow's mouth was so soft and yielding, giving Tara the opportunity to explore, to languorously stroke, to see what delicious groans she could elicit from Willow's throat, to notice the moment Willow's hands encircled her shoulders and the back of her head, drawing Tara deeper and moving slowly, tilting her chin giving Tara pleasure in return. God, she could kiss Willow like this for hours, pressing in, retreating, barely touching, breaking contact, only to have one or the other of them demand it all over again, pulling hungrily to deepen the kiss again, to find the warmth and softness there, and the deftness. Tara had no doubt that Willow's tender mouth would feel heavenly between her legs, But then, she was fairly certain Willow hadn't yet imagined doing such things. So that's where the fun part came in: Tara was going to show her how it felt.

But she was going to take a roundabout way of getting there. She loved Willow's openness, her responsiveness, her willingness to meet her fully. Tara felt in awe of this gift Willow bestowed upon her: the gift of making love to her wholly, without reservation. Tara couldn't help but notice the way they matched each other perfectly, instinctively. She wondered if sex with any woman would be like this. But then Willow gasped, and Tara felt her body kick in response and she knew that, no, it was indeed this very special girl she shared this beautiful connection with.

Tara discovered the source of Willow's pleasure and surprise: While lost in the moment, Tara had drawn Willow's thigh up around her waist, tilting Willow's hips so that now Tara's belly was able to give her lover a new pressure, a new source of friction, and Willow responded by wrapping both legs tightly around Tara and beginning to rock slowly, achingly, her breath deepening, her hands moving down Tara to the small of her back, demanding deeper contact. God, she wants me to fuck her. She needs me to fuck her.

"Talk to me," Tara implored, rolling her hips in counterpoint, wringing every possible sensation the movement produced in both of them.

"Ta- Tara," Willow whispered desperately.

"I'm right here," Tara purred.

"Not a dream?"

"Not a dream. Right here."

"Good. I never come in my dreams."

"Is that what you want, baby?"

Willow was silent a few moments more, letting her hips and the gathering wetness on Tara's belly do some of the talking. Tara was keenly aware of so much: the scents of Willow's skin and the earthy musk of her arousal, the flex-and-release pressure of Willow's thighs against Tara's hips, and the muscles of her belly.

Then Willow was back. "Uhn. No dreams. Just coming. And coming. And coming. Please." Her breath was heavy as they rocked together, Willow's fingernails raking the skin of Tara's back before settling once more on the small of her back and pulling Tara into her, in sync with the pulse of her need. After a moment, she chuckled, admonishing herself: "Wow, greedy much?"

"Is that a bad thing?" Tara asked, waiting for an answer.

"Uh, I don't know."

"I'm greedy, too."

Willow chuckled again. "Yeah, I've noticed. Guess that's why we're here, when I should be down the hall. I like it. Greedy looks really, really good on you. I wish I could see it. I mean, I know it in my mind's eye. I know the look you get. But I really, really want to see you, see the want, wanting me."

"I want you," Tara said in a voice that made it clear there could be no other truth. "Maybe you can't see me. But there are other ways I could show you how much."

With that, Tara bent her head and wrapped her lips around the tender flesh of Willow's breast. That got her attention. She writhed a bit, unsure about the contact. Then Tara drew Willow's nipple into her mouth, sucking gently though insistently and running her tongue with the same tender worship she'd shown Willow's mouth. Willow moaned, her breathing increasing. Tara loved sending her lover nonverbal. She could see the girl's head thrown back, the blue-white light bathing her throat a pale alabaster. Tara wanted to go there and bite...and suck, but her destination lay further south instead. She'd come back to that lovely throat a little later.

Still kissing Willow's breast, Tara tucked her hair behind her ear and moved a hand low across Willow's belly, lower, through the gathering of hair between Willow's legs. The move meant that Tara had to break the rhythm of Willow's rocking against her stomach. And in response Willow whimpered a small, "No," at the loss of contact. Tara felt the loss, as well, the air chilling Tara's belly where Willow had marked her with the wetness of her need. But the loss was fleeting. Tara had plans.

She drew her fingers into the wetness, tracing a line achingly slowly along this slim channel that begged to be run and entered and fucked lovingly, roughly, thoroughly. And God, Tara wanted to oblige. More than just oblige, actually. Tara wanted to make a statement, to fuck Willow in a way that laid claim to her, that moved heaven and earth and inscribed on Willow's flesh and very soul that she belonged to Tara.

"Ah, Tara..."

Tara knew that's what Willow wanted. In perhaps not the same words--probably in more words, in fact--Willow was about to ask for just that. She moved quickly, before Willow could verbalize. She pulled away her hand and replaced it with her mouth.

"Oh," Willow uttered softly in response to the change. It took a moment to register what was different, and then she amended: "Uh, wow."

Tara knew what this could feel like. Perhaps she'd never quite been treated to it exactly the way she'd wanted. The boys she'd been with had agendas that were slightly different. They saw this type of kissing as a prelude to something more conventional. But ever since Tara had first made love to Willow, she'd had this in her mind: the notion of lavishing appropriate attention on this amazingly sensitive zone. She'd mulled it over repeatedly, thinking through what she'd like herself and then determined to show that to Willow.

She knew the tongue could be incredibly soft, that the lips and breath working in concert with such a clever organ could produce sensations more delicate and precise than any hand. She knew what the warm wetness of a kiss could bring to the wet and swollen flesh between her lover's legs.

What Tara didn't know were the feelings that being so close to the source of Willow's arousal would draw out in herself. The tastes and scents were intense, concentrated. They were alluring and absolutely compelling. This was Willow's body begging at its most base and animal level to be dealt with and satisfied. As Tara drew her tongue slowly, wetly along the length of Willow toward the little nerve center where Tara intended to concentrate, she watched Willow's alabaster skin move in response: the deep intake of breath that made her smooth chest rise, the arch of her back, the arms which reached back so she could curl her hands around the headboard. Tara could feel Willow's legs spread wider, her heels digging into the mattress, and the flexing of her thigh muscles as she tightened and released, moving her hips to gather in the sensations of Tara's kiss.

All of this excited Tara in a way that shocked her. With just her mouth, she completely owned this woman. Perhaps not in every sense of the word, but in every sense of this moment. Willow literally was hanging on the anticipation of what Tara's mouth was about to do. And Tara knew that Willow had little idea of what was coming.

She stilled her lips a moment, and then brought her tongue forward to flick softly, precisely. She wasn't yet sure how much pressure and direct attention Willow could take, so she paid close attention to her lover's reaction.

Willow flexed, throwing her head back and gasping a low, "Oh." Her hips rose to meet Tara's mouth. Ok, Tara thought, that's a good sign. She repeated the motion, this time a bit harder. Willow's vocalizations grew louder and her hips thrust forward against the pressure.

Tara broke contact a moment. "Shhh. Quiet, sweetie."

Willow gazed helplessly at the ceiling. "I'm fairly sure there's no way you can continue on your present course, which of course I wholeheartedly hope that you do, that I can guarantee anything short of a full-throated scream."

Tara smiled. "I'd really like that, baby. God, it would drive me crazy. Uh, it would drive the neighbors crazy, too."

"Ah, fuck them," Willow groused.

"Exactly how much do you want to advertise my talents?"

"Oh, right. I'm greedy. And possessive. I'll be quiet."

"Just try, baby. Do your best."

Willow grinned. "You, too. Please?"

Tara chuckled.

She ducked back down to her task, running her tongue softly along the length of Willow's wetness, taking a moment to dip inside, just a taste--which earned her another gasp and a chuckle--and then finished her journey at her lover's swollen clitoris. There was no mistaking she'd found the right spot. It fairly begged her to take it in her mouth and suck. So she did. A loud moan from Willow was the response. Without releasing her hold, Tara snaked a long arm up Willow's torso in a quest to find her mouth--and put a clamp on it. She couldn't quite reach, but Willow got the hint and quieted down.

Tara then tested a bit further, sucking and flicking her tongue lightly.

A sharp intake of breath and then Willow whispered: "God, what are you doing?" The question was part marvel, part ecstasy and part academic. Tara decided to answer her later. Right now she was intent on torture.

Which was working. Willow writhed as if the pressure were just on the barest reaches of "too much." Tara calibrated moment-by-moment as she watched her lover's face and felt her body react to each subtle variation. When she found just the right placement and pressure, she knew it from the way Willow's breathing synchronized with the movement of her hips and thighs. Tara sighed, a hum, against her lover's enflamed flesh. And then she introduced the next variable in her lovemaking equation. She drew a hand up from underneath her and deftly entered Willow, adding penetrating pressure to work the clitoris from both inside and out, rolling the length of it between her lips, tongue and fingers.

Ok, that got a much bigger response. Tara knew her hand couldn't reach Willow's mouth. So she grabbed a pillow from nearby and tossed it teasingly up to Willow's chest. Willow nodded her understanding, but instead of quieting down, she found her words. Tara decided this was less conspicuous than screaming, at least, so she kept her mouth and hands intent on her task.

"I have-uhn-no idea what you're doing to me."

"Sucking and fucking you," Tara would have replied if she could.

“Maybe—maybe you could, uh, show me. Later. Not like diagram it out or anything…”

Tara sucked hard, quieting Willow. Body interrupted brain with new information.

“Tara…”

Hard to keep her quiet.

“Tara…”

A little more pressure. Tara pulled her fingers hard from the inside and increased the urgency of the tempo she’d started there. She wanted Willow to feel this, to be absolutely beyond describing it, to let all of her energy and attention focus on this one small spot, this spot that Tara controlled entirely. She wanted to tear down Willow’s natural tendency to rationalize and instead reduce her to muscle and skin, nerve and fluid, to feel her want for sex, and to surrender helplessly to it, to surrender to the fuck, to the all-consuming rutting and pumping of it so that it wouldn’t matter if Donald walked in or the Furher himself or if the building were to fall down around them, but that Willow would be oblivious to it all—to anything but satisfying this brute drive to come. And come hard. Her body would carry her there, held aloft by the bidding of Tara’s mouth and hand, the strength of her shoulders and arms, the strength of her desire to break Willow and rebuild her in a new knowledge of the world, a new knowledge of herself and of Tara, of the two of them as lovers. Tara wanted her to come. And come hard. She wanted Willow to experience orgasm as if understanding the shape and power of it for the first time. Not the polite kind of orgasm you have when you rub yourself to satisfaction. Not even the kind of orgasm they’d shared the other day, gazing into each other’s eyes and experiencing what the French called “le petit morte,” the little death, together, in a beautiful trust fall. She wanted Willow to experience orgasm as an entirely muscular thing, oblivious to Tara or herself or her surroundings, only aware of the powerful, intoxicating inevitability of the fucking: that savage, explosive release.

“Good girl,” Tara thought, as she felt Willow stiffen and her muscles begin to clamp down hard on Tara’s hand. She kept pumping into her lover.

“Please scream. Don’t roar. How would I explain a roar?” Tara thought, knowing full well there was no way she was going to quiet Willow now. Her only option was to fabricate an explanation, which she was certain would be the far easier thing to do.

God, Willow was beautiful. Tara watched the long expanse of her body fairly glitter in the darkness. Her arms were outstretched, hands still wrapped around the headboard, her chest heaving with the laboring of her breathing, that beautiful throat needing biting, her nipples hard and wanting to be sucked, but Tara was too busy to do so. Willow’s hips and thighs flexed and released, flexed and released in time with Tara’s pumping hand.

“Come on, baby,” Tara silently urged, bending even more vigorously to her task. She could tell Willow was high, that she’d need to find her bearings in order to know how to begin to come. Tara slowed her hand and lightened the pressure of her mouth, slowed the flicking of her tongue, and Willow’s hips and thighs slowed with her. Willow took a deep breath, and then Tara felt the clenching and unclenching inside her, the first waves of orgasm beginning deep within her, before their effect could even reach her lover’s mouth. Tara knew the sensation that Willow would be feeling: as if sand were slipping out from beneath her. She waited only a heartbeat and then built the pressure with her hand and mouth again, the furious teasing of her tongue. The clenching inside Willow grew more intense, until the girl’s body stopped moving altogether, as she did, indeed, scream her release.

A beautiful sound. Willow had told her she didn’t have a good singing voice, but Tara begged to differ. With a little practice…

“Come on, baby, move with me,” Tara wanted to urge, as she felt Willow’s orgasm roll from her in waves, but the girl remained rigid. Tara continued fucking, letting Willow ride as Tara did unto her. She knew how lovely it could feel to lay back and be fucked, and Tara wanted to give it to her.

And Willow did lay back and let Tara continue to give it to her, her legs still open wide and flexed hard as Tara fucked and Willow accepted it. Tara thought Willow might go back up, but finally the tightening of muscles inside Willow began to let go of their tension; the girl began to relax and her body was reduced to a series of spasms, which grew fewer and farther between. Only then did Tara release her mouth, gently kissing and running her tongue along Willow’s swollen sex.

A knock at the door. And Donnie’s concerned voice. He wanted to know if everything was all right. Tara was surprised his military training hadn’t led him to just barge right in. Tara was even more surprised at how level and steady her own voice was. “It’s ok, Donnie. She’s just having bad dreams. But I’ve got her and she’s ok.”

That seemed to satisfy him because he did not barge in, and Tara climbed up her lover’s body to suck those nipples, bite that throat and kiss that mouth. Willow wrapped her arms and legs around Tara, rocking her gently, savoring the afterglow of her orgasm. Tara basked in it with her for a while, until her own desire for release outweighed her desire for comfort. She wanted to fuck.

She drew Willow’s thigh between her own legs and showed Willow how wet she was with wanting her. Willow’s hands roamed along Tara’s back to settle low. “My, god, baby, you’re so beautiful,” she uttered, as if to a goddess.

“I’m not done with you,” Tara growled, biting Willow’s throat again and eliciting a small whimper. Then, Tara’s attention was drawn to the overpowering need to be fucking Willow. Right now.

Her hips started a rolling motion as if all on their own, hard, urgent, against Willow’s increasingly wet thigh. With each thrust, Willow’s hands pulled Tara to her.

“I want to be fucking you,” Tara found herself whispering. “Inside you. I want to feel you. God, it feels like I’m fucking you.”

She concentrated on that for a while: on the thought of each stroke, each thrust, pushing her inside Willow. She knew—or imagined—what that might feel like, enveloped in warmth and wet, fitting perfectly, deep, tight, Willow gently squeezing with muscles that contracted of their own accord, in sympathy with the motion of Tara entering and withdrawing. Tara grew dizzy at the power of her own imagination and the realization she really wanted Willow like that, to know Willow that deeply, and for Willow to absolutely understand the rhythm of her.

“I don’t want to come. Just feel this. Oh, god, I’ve got to relax, relax.”

“I want you to come, baby. God you smell like sex. You’re covered in me. Every inch of you. I want you. I want to feel you come. I want to hear it. Let go on me, baby.”

“Can’t. Sometimes…sometimes, god, I love this. I just want to fuck like this all night. Oh, god. Relax, relax, relax.” Tara took deep breaths, keeping the motion going, but relaxing thigh and stomach muscles that were pulling the tautness inside her—the gathering tautness she knew that with just a few more pulls would absolutely unravel her.

Willow was on to her game. She commanded Tara’s hips, rolling them into her, with each thrust. “I want to feel you come. Inside me. Can you feel me? I can feel you, and I know you want it. I know you want to let go. You can scream or growl or roar, and I don’t give a fuck what anybody says or thinks. I just need you to. It’s just you and me. Come, Tara. And then fuck me again. And come again. God, you make me so crazy. I want to feel you let go on me, in me. All of the above. I want you to come. I want to feel you inside me. I want to hold you there until you can’t help it. God, you’re so wet. You feel so good. Please, baby?”

Tara knew that the excitement she’d felt making love to Willow had aroused her completely. She didn’t want to come. But it would be so easy. Like sand slipping out from beneath her feet, like water pouring, she could let her orgasm take her. God, it would be so easy. And then she let it. She gave a low groan, willing her voice not to rise, and let her orgasm pour from her its intensity and light, while the world and everything in it disappeared for a few moments, replaced only by flashes of gold and red and heat. She and Willow rocked together while the sensations slowly ebbed to a low throb. And then there was only the two of them locked together. Willow ran her hands through Tara’s hair and kissed her sweetly—her brow, her cheeks, her lips. Tara caught her breath and nuzzled her lover, amazed at the way their bodies fit together so perfectly, at how they both seemed to know exactly what the other needed. And Tara became aware that she had another kind of need—this one not physical at all. She simply needed Willow, despite all the messiness and impossibility.

Tara collapsed into Willow, who continued to rock her gently. Willow’s mouth was near her ear, and her breath tickled. “I love you,” Willow whispered.

The whisper sent a jolt through Tara. She wasn’t sure what to say in return, so she let kisses say for her what her words could not.

##


More to come in Part 5


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 Post subject: Re: Night of Broken Glass --New Fic
PostPosted: Fri Sep 28, 2007 2:33 am 
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32. Kisses and Gay Love
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Hello :)

Wow...

I have trouble to find my english...

The beggining was so upsetting and... horrible. The middle too.
The university, Faith... Buffy.
Then Donald and Tara's and Donald's words about Jews. But how much do I appreciate the conclusion Willow had... About them just being endoctrined, that if the Reich was against Irish they would be too.
I appreciate little notes like this. It is so easy to confuse sometimes in story about such sensible topics. That's all the difference between the ones being willingly Bad, and a population victim of years of propaganda.
And I truly appreciate that.
I am very glad Willow saw that. I hope Tara will notice her own state of mind before she can hurt Willow more.

And the last part was just.. Wow.
More than Wow. It was.. Splendid. And very hot. The way you describe their love making is really wonderful.
How Tara explores things she has loved men doing to her, and do them to Willow. And how she wants Willow to discover things too.
I am also very glad to read Tara's need to take Willow like a man. To imagine this. I mean I can't explain why I like this especially, but I do. lol

Thanks you for having updated this fast.

I really love this fic. More and more.

I am scared, upset and aroused. What a great mix for a fiction.

Friendly,

Julia

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"Joie est mon caractère, C'est la faute à Voltaire; Misère est mon trousseau, C'est la faute à Rousseau." Gavroche. Victor Hugo, Les Misérables (chap. XV)


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 Post subject: Re: Night of Broken Glass --New Fic
PostPosted: Fri Sep 28, 2007 11:05 am 
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YYYYYYYESSS! double update, my lucky day :)

Thanks, this was wonderful.

I'm glad to see Jenny died. Not that I'm at all glad she is dead, but that you're not sparing us the horror. The whole point is that this is REAL. What's happening to them is real and not everyone is going to be lucky. I was expecting Buffy to barge in and save the day, or for Spikes gun to be jammed and he'd leave, or for Jenny to pull an ace out of her sleeve, but nope. Spike shot her, Jenny died and now Willow, Buffy, and Xander are in even more trouble. It makes the story infinately more real and tragic.

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 Post subject: Re: Night of Broken Glass --New Fic
PostPosted: Fri Sep 28, 2007 6:38 pm 
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Thanks, Julia and Zooeys_Bridge, for your posts.

Your comments are great (yes, Zooeys_Bridge, I did do another fast post after you said last time that you check so often for updates. I'm with you: I have a hard time waiting...).

First, Julia:

I'm glad you liked how the sex scene was handled, that you felt like Tara's attitude was realistic--that she wanted to please Willow from a place of masculine energy, since that would have been the experience she had to draw from. That's definitely what I was going for, though I wasn't sure how kittens would respond to that. I just liked the notion that Tara's relationship with Willow would get her in touch with her power. To me, when they get completely wrapped up in the physical it feels cathartic. There's so much heaviness in their lives, whether they're on the lamb from the Gestapo (as Willow is) or whether they're left alone and unempowered (as Tara is).

And, of course, there's so much heaviness in the story, that I liked inserting little bits of humorous dialog, kind the playful way people would be in real life (or the way these characters seem like they'd be in real life).

And Zooeys_Bridge:

I'm so glad you said you were glad I killed Jenny. That made me laugh. I kind of cringed when I posted the part about Giles being killed. He was murdered in the most offhanded fashion, I worried that kittens would feel horrible, or cheated of getting to know this great character more. And that was kind of the point. Giles was important. He was a big person in the Scoobies' lives, and in a blink he's gone before we even get to know him.

With Jenny, I enjoyed having her play off Spike. She's so much more mature than the Scoobies and so her whole reaction to her situation had to come from a mature place. And you're right, in this story *everything* is at stake. These are dangerous times where everything's played "for keeps." Still, there was part of me that hated her dying. I really like Jenny. My consolation in writing that scene was to have her go out from a place of power and self-knowing.

Again, thank you so much for continuing to comment. I'll have more soon, I promise!

June


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 Post subject: Re: Night of Broken Glass --New Fic
PostPosted: Sat Sep 29, 2007 4:21 pm 
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Night of Broken Glass--PART 5


Rating: NC-17 for explicit sex and violence. There’s character death and a lot of close calls.

Feedback: Yes, please. This is my first published fanfic ever, so feel free to comment!

Uber setting: It’s 1943 Berlin, and the Nazis are the Big Bad



PART 5


Spike woke in a foul mood. Far below him the street sounds of an average Berlin morning were stirring. He was naked in bed and spattered in blood. It was all over his sheets. Not that he was a total neatnick, but he really hated bringing his work home with him. And last night that work had to do with decommissioning and disposing of one of Buffy’s girlfriends—or at least a girl in his beloved Buffy’s beloved circle. So some of the blood came from that. And some belonged to Spike himself. And maybe some from that fucking preacher Caleb.

They’d gotten into a rotten tussle after he’d shot Jenny. Of course Caleb had heard the shot. Of course he came into the house and started inspecting Spike’s work, the fucking wanker. Like Spike wasn’t an expert in killing for nothing. He’d earned the right to dispatch his prey as he saw fit.

Caleb had gone ballistic on him.

“What the fuck was that, Blood?” Caleb had demanded with a colorfulness of language that most preachers would not ordinarily use, at least in public.

“What the fuck was what?” Spike snarled. He had Jenny’s blood on his shirt. Her blood traced a delicate spatter arc across the walls and window of the tiny kitchen, crimson speckles against white. It smelled metallic and meaty in the room. Spike had killed many times before, but not in such close quarters and not with such mental agonizing.

“Why the fuck didn’t you just shoot her the minute you got in the apartment? It was her, right?”

“It was her. The Gypsy,” Spike grumbled. “I- she was pretty. I just wanted to mess with her a bit.”

“Great. Thinking with your cock.” Again, not very preacherly. Had Caleb actually ever been a preacher?

“You saw the photograph. You tell me you wouldn’t want to chat that lady up.”

“She’s a fucking degenerate.”

“Was. She’s dead now.”

Caleb gestured to the red incrimination etched across the walls, the windows, the table, and Spike. “What is this? Amateur night? All this blood and mess. Shall I get a bucket and brush and start washing down the walls? Is this sloppiness worth ‘chatting up a lady?’ Is it worth the reputation of the SS? Do you want Good Germans fearing us? The SS should be heroes in their eyes. Not making them feel scared in their beds.”

Spike turned on him, bumping Jenny’s hip, as he maneuvered in the tight space. “Oh, what now? Like we’re not butchers already? Everybody knows there’s a Gestapo. We’re like the great big pink elephant in the neighborhood that nobody will talk about. Everybody knows about us, and everybody knows we deal in death. So what if I decide to play a variation on a theme?”

Caleb crossed his arms. “Her fucking head is gone.”

Spike shrugged. “Is not.”

“Then where is it?”

Spike glanced ruefully around the space. “It’s…around.”

Caleb stepped forward and flicked something off Spike’s shirt. “Got some on you there, maybe?”

Spike shoved him roughly. “Step off, Caleb.”

Caleb shoved him back. “Fuck you, Spike.” He took a roundhouse swipe that connected with Spike’s jaw. Spike hurtled back into a red-streaked wall, bumping Jenny to the floor.”

“I say we burn the place down. This is a travesty,” Caleb snarled.

Spike rubbed his jaw and scowled. “You stupid fuck. What was that for? I killed the bitch like we agreed. Let’s finish the plan. Let’s get the notebooks we came for. That Faith bitch said they’d be here.”

Caleb turned on heel and headed for the other side of the house. “Get a bucket and mop and clean up your mess. I’ll call backup and then get the notebooks.”

Spike rubbed his jaw, still pissed. But he knew the notebook would make Caleb very happy. Lots of names, lovely names, in there. The names of all those beautiful young and stupid university students who were going to die one by one or in big groups. When they found the leaders, those lucky kids would be guillotined. To make a public point. The People’s Press would be there, of course. All very maudlin and cautionary. It’s always the young and stupid who are right and get punished for it.

After a while, Caleb came back into the kitchen to inspect Spike’s progress. “Nice apron,” Caleb smirked. “And I see you’ve bagged our girl. Thanks.”

“She was fucking heavier than she looked.”

“Did you cop a feel while you were at it? Maybe a little more?”

Spike punched his partner in the mouth. Caleb’s lip came away bloody, but he chuckled an angry, mirthless little laugh. “You’re not fooling me, Spike. Something about this girl made you soft. Am I right? Or, wait, was it hard she made you?”

“Shove it up your ass.”

“Save your attitude. I know, Spike,” said Caleb with a malevolent gleam. Like he really did know. Spike’s blood ran cold, and he fought to keep his face impassive.

“I know, Spike,” Caleb repeated. “You’ve held onto that one’s photo for a long time. Sleep with it under your pillow, maybe? And the little redhead, too? Why?”

The question hung there between them like soiled underwear dangled in front of Spike’s nose. It was hard to meet Caleb’s eyes.

Caleb continued: “There are hundreds of people we’ve rounded up. Lots of pretty women, lots of little girls. You’ve always been nothing but top of your game…until lately. Why didn’t you just strangle the Gypsy bitch? Why didn’t you beat her? Hell, even stab her and leave her to bleed to death in a nice, compact puddle? Or, if you couldn’t do it properly, why didn’t you whistle for me to come bail you out?” Caleb took out a cigarette and lit it. The smoke filled the tiny kitchen like a polluted blue fog. “Did you know her, Spike?”

Spike shook his head, honestly. But Caleb’s guess was pretty damn close. Too close. For an evil and heartless bastard when did he get so damn sympathetic—or empathic? When did he start crawling inside Spike’s head?

“Do you know someone who knew her?”

“Come again?” Spike asked. It was a legitimately confusingly worded question.

“You know what I’m asking. Are these two ladies Willow and Jenny just a bit too close to the skin for you?”

“I fucking shot the bitch’s head off. What’s soft about that?” Spike’s voice raised in anger.

Caleb smiled smugly. “Why don’t you fess up to me? You know there’s no shame in knowing the people we arrest. It’s a small enough city. Every now and then we’re bound to be called upon to round up people we’ve known.”

“Yeah, like your mother.” Spike wasn’t joking, but Caleb laughed.

“She was pretty upset with me,” Caleb chuckled. “But she refused to stop selling to the Jews. How hard can it be to comprehend the government’s agenda here? The imperative to be done with them?” He took a long drag on the cigarette, speaking again on the blue exhale. “Anyway, she wasn’t locked up for long. I sent her a Christmas present. We’re good.”

When he returned to his original topic, his voice was calm and smooth. “You need to tell me what you know about the girl Willow,” he said. “Let’s get her and get this business behind us. I don’t want to fight. You and I, we’ve been partners a long time. We’ve got a lot more ahead of us. I’ll let tonight’s sloppiness pass. But I wanted you to know I noticed it. I don’t ever want to feel like you’re wavering on me. Fair enough?”

The words sounded reasonable, but Spike understood fully the menace behind them. Caleb would be watching him like a hawk for any wavering of allegiances. The next moment of weakness would be Spike’s last.

So it was with a heaviness he woke this morning, the morning after, still bathed in the blood of one of Buffy’s friends, readying himself to go kill the other one.

##

The morning light had crept into Tara’s room, seeping in through the windows in its gradual way, sneaking inevitably upon them. Tara felt Willow stir beside her a moment before the girl sat up ramrod straight and scared.

“Shit!” she hissed.

Tara reached a warm hand and stroked the lovely expanse of Willow’s back reassuringly. Ok, also appreciatively. The young woman’s skin was unreasonably soft and smooth. It was sometimes hard to imagine that a creature so lovely had landed in Tara’s lap. And all she wanted was more. None of this scared whispering.

Tara gently pulled Willow back to the warmth of her embrace. “Shhh. Donald doesn’t come in here. And he won’t go in your room. In fact, you’re safer here with me than anywhere in the house.”

Willow relaxed into her. “I feel safer here with you than anywhere, period. God, Tara, sometimes I wish I never had to leave.”

“Then don’t.”

“I have my job. It’s important. I need the job,” Willow mused aloud, chanting, almost as if talking to herself. “But I’m not just talking about the job.” She paused to turn so that she was gazing earnestly into Tara’s eyes. Tara didn’t understand what Willow was trying to say. In fact, it was hard to concentrate at all with Willow looking at her like that.

“Riley will come back,” Willow said. Tara made some move to protest, but Willow stilled her lips with a soft kiss and then gazed seriously again. “He will come back.”

Tara knew that the gift Willow brought home to her each night was the most rare and precious thing Willow could give anyone. And she chose to bring that each night and lay it bravely at Tara’s feet.

“Wilma, I- I don’t—“

Willow silenced her with another kiss. “My name is Willow. I want you to call me Willow. It’s- it’s important to me that you do.”

Tara stroked Willow’s red hair, distracted by its softness. “Why not just go by the name Willow, then?”

“Just people I’m closest to. When I’m with you I’m just Willow. Out there, that girl is Wilma, girl reporter extraordinaire.”

“So Willow is what, your nom de guerre?”

Willow smiled a lovely smile. “Something like that. More like nom de coeur, maybe. Willow is my heart.”

Tara thought about that a moment. She knew exactly what that heart felt and sounded like. She knew the tempo of it when she slept and the tempo of it after she came. With a little mathematical extrapolation she could probably calculate its tempo after she climbed the stairs, or wandered around the apartment. She knew the sound of Willow’s blood, the amazing scents and tastes of her, the warmth of her hands and the cold of her toes. She knew the sharpness of her mind. And the oddness of the connections it sometimes made. She knew her voice in whispers, in laughter and in passion. These were subtle nuances that nobody else knew about her. And Tara had been given the privilege of knowing all of them.

##

The newsroom was already abuzz before Willow arrived. There were rumblings that the SS were going to have a big day today. Official sources were sketchy, but Gruber had gotten a phone call at his home, and one by one he’d contacted the reporters to get them in early. Since Willow was a copy editor she didn’t rate a call, but there was plenty for her to do and Gruber seemed genuinely happy to see her.

“Miss Hermann,” he called, waving her over to his office. She grabbed her notepad and joined him.

“We’re expecting some important calls from the SS today. I need you to stick close to the phones. Any information that comes in, you take it down and get it to me. Understood?”

Willow nodded. “Do we know what it is yet?” she asked, the energy of the newsroom infusing her with urgency. A good day for the Reich didn’t necessarily mean a good day for her, but it was hard not to get swept up in the excitement of the work.

Gruber shook his head. “I think it’s something bad,” was all he would say.

Willow took her seat and began reading over the stacks of copy already piling up on her desk. She made quick, clear editing marks as she went, cleaning up the text for the typesetters. She had a sharp eye and a quick mind for grammar. She liked all of these rules that tried to contain the unruliness of language.

The lack of sleep took its toll on her concentration. She rubbed tired eyes and decided to get a cup of coffee.

##

Tara set a plate of bread and cheese before Donnie and took a seat across from him at the small kitchen table. Two cups of coffee steamed between them. On the counter a third sat cold, where Willow had left hers long before the siblings had risen this morning. As she did every day, Willow had gotten up early and slipped out of the house for work.

“So,” Donald said a bit brightly. Tara looked up expectantly while her brother took a sip of hot coffee and cleared his throat. “Wilma…She has bad dreams, then?”

Tara sat still, unsure of what to say exactly. It was true that she did, but Tara doubted that was what her brother was getting at.

Donnie’s face reddened but he kept his tone light. “Didn’t sound like her dream was that bad.” He smiled.

Tara was confused. Donnie pressed on. “I’ve heard that sound before. Believe it or not. I mean I have children. I came by them somehow.” Tara was still confused, but in a different way now.

“Is that ring hers?” He nodded at the metal band that seemed to mean less and less to her.

She shook her head. “It’s Riley’s,” she said.

Donnie quirked a smile. “Then you’ve got a real problem, eh?”

Tara nodded slowly. This wasn’t the sort of thing most people talked about, and she wasn’t sure what to say. Was he going to give her a piece of brotherly advice, as man of the family? Or maybe a sermon? Or would he make a joke of it?

She took a swallow of coffee waiting uncomfortably for him to say whatever he was going to say next. Donnie was contemplative. He sipped his coffee and regarded the ceiling for a moment.

“I expect things will straighten themselves out once Riley’s back,” he said, not unkindly. “It’s got to be lonely just waiting. Lord knows I haven’t been a perfect saint myself. Maybe that’s just a family trait. I don’t know. But Riley’s a good man, and you’re a good woman. You’re so wonderful with my children. I know you’ll be a wonderful mother. We’re blessed to have such a good family.”

It was the most effusive he’d been toward her in a long time. The soldierly veneer came down and he was human, acknowledging her humanness. It made her want to hug him for being so understanding about something that really was objectively a mess. What made her feel uncomfortable was the way he acknowledged and accepted in one breath that she and Willow were lovers and then rationalized it away the next as a lark, a bit of nothing that would be swept out of the house once Riley returned. His assessment wasn’t unreasonable. Tara did want a family and a future the way she’d always imagined it. But her heart ached.

The conversation was done. What more was there to say that wouldn’t tread into the unseemly? She didn’t want to know his opinion of sex between two women. She didn’t want to create an opportunity for him to be judgmental. And it seemed he didn’t want those things either. They let the words hang between them, their meaning simple and clear. And troubling, at least for Tara.

##

Spike had gotten Tara’s name off the mailbox downstairs the other day when he’d tailed her while she was out running errands. She’d opened the mailbox and retrieved some letters. He’d stood off in the shadows, lighting a cigarette and watching. A Good German like Tara—what need did she have to be careful? She didn’t skulk around, watching her back. Come to think of it, she had a nice back. Shapely. Nice face. Long blond hair pulled back in a simple knot. It would be easy enough to step forward and loosen it; And it would be fun to see the tresses fall about her shoulders. But he trafficked in people who weren’t Good Germans. The only women he touched were tainted. So for now, he’d been content to be a ghost.

Today was different. He had Caleb attached to his hip, a gun figuratively pressed into his ribs. It was time to play Big Bad. That was his job and he was on notice. He couldn’t afford to be a softy today. The two men marched up the stairs of Tara’s apartment building on a raiding mission.

Spike rapped on the door, using his Very Official Knock, the one meant to intimidate a bit, get the occupants hopping to the door. Like always, it worked.

##

Tara opened the door with some trepidation. She didn’t like the sound of the knock, the aggressiveness of it. In the hall stood two gentlemen in long gray coats and gray hats. Their shoes were shiny black. They had an official air about them, despite their civilian attire. One was taller, square chinned with eyes so dark they might as well have been black. The shorter one was equally intense. His blue eyes regarded her with a flicker of warmth and then it was gone. Her nerves tingled, and not in a good way.

“Can I help you?” she asked in her most level voice.

“Tara Maclay?” the smaller one asked, although it was clear he already knew he had the right person. Gestapo, she assumed. They made it their business to know things.

“Yes.”

“I’m detective Blood and this is my partner Caleb. We’re looking for a fugitive, and we have reason to believe you might know this person.”

Tara shrugged and invited them inside, closing the door against the prying curiosity she knew such a scene would stir amongst her neighbors. The last time the SS had been here it was to arrest the Schraders across the hall. That had been the talk of the floor for a while. She assumed it was something similar this time. She was right, but not in a way she was prepared for.

Detective Blood pulled a photograph from his breast pocket. “We’re looking for a Willow Rosenberg,” he said flatly, watching Tara intently for her reaction.

Tara felt her body turn ice cold and her heart pound. There was no mistaking it. That was Willow. The surprise on her face gave her away, she was sure of it. Donnie came up behind her, dressed in his military captain’s uniform. He’d heard the knock at the door. And he saw the picture the officer held in his hand.

The SS men seemed surprised to see a soldier with Tara. “This is m-my brother, Ca-Captain Donald Ma-Maclay,” Tara stuttered. Damn that stutter!

She returned her gaze to the photograph of Willow smiling in the sunshine and felt a whole new worldview snap into place. This one not good or fair or honest or safe.

“You know her, don’t you?” the taller officer asked, his eyes narrowing.

Tara nodded. “Yes, she’s be-been staying here. But I-I know her by a di-different name—Wilma. She said her apartment had been bombed out in the last air raid.”

“Her apartment was raided,” Mr. Blood corrected. “We were taking a group of Gypsies and Jews into protective custody. This one got away.”

Her mind worked at several things at once. Willow was a Jew. She was wanted by the Gestapo. And Tara knew that protective custody had nothing to do with protection. This was very serious. What was she willing to tell them? What could she not tell them? It took pretty much all she had to remain standing.

Donald spoke up from behind her. “Jewish? Are you sure?” He sounded extremely skeptical.

“Very.”

“Well,” Donald continued, hotly. “She’s a real charlatan, then, bringing such scandal into this household. I’m a captain in the Reich’s army. And my sister’s fiancé is as well. I assure you we would not knowingly harbor a Jew in our home. If you go back through your files you’ll see that we’re the family who turned in the Schraders from across the hall when we suspected them to be Jews.”

The SS men seemed to make note of this.

“What in- information c-can we give you to-to aid in your investigation?” Tara asked.

Blood gazed at her squarely. “What name does she go by? And where can we find her?”

Donald continued to speak for them. Man of the house, of course. “The name she gave us was Wilma Eberhardt. Works at the phone company.” Tara was shocked at the ease with which her brother lied.

“Did you see papers that attested to that as her identity?”

Tara and Donald shook their heads.

“When will she be home?” the tall one asked.

Her heart sank. They intended to camp out and wait for Willow. Honestly, Tara didn’t think she could take such a confrontation. She couldn’t meet Willow at the door tonight only to deliver her to the SS men and watch them drag her away. Her mind played out the disturbing scenario so that she thought again that her legs might give out.

“We don’t expect her,” Donald said, crossing his arms and blushing bright red.

“You don’t expect her? I thought you said she was staying here.”

“I did. She was,” he nodded. “But I threw her out…She…I’m sorry. This is very difficult for me to say…She made unseemly advances toward my sister. It caused much distress. This morning…” He stopped, uncomfortably, and then scraped up the words to continue. “This morning I discovered them in bed together. The woman you’re looking for--that perverted thing seduced my sister.”

Three sets of eyebrows shot up. Tara felt hot tears roll down her cheeks. She was helpless to stop them.

“Is this true?” one of the SS men demanded. Tara nodded.

“My sister’s fiancé is serving on the eastern Front right now. He’s a very fine soldier. But I’m afraid he’s left Tara very lonely. That lying wench clearly took advantage of her. First her kindness and then her person.” Donald took a shaky breath. “I sincerely hope you do find her.” Through his own emotion, he choked. “Let me know what I can do to help.”

Mr. Blood gave Donald his card. “Do you mind if we search the apartment? As a matter of routine, of course?”

Donald shrugged. “Fine. If she left anything, I assure you it was in her haste to get away from me. I was pretty upset. You’re welcome to any of it.”

Tara sat numbly on the parlour couch while the men wandered purposefully through her home. Donald accompanied them. She felt utterly violated, and not only by the police.

##


Spike always kind of liked this part of an investigation: poking through people’s houses, seeing how they lived, what they ate, what they read. He could see from the bookshelves that indeed Tara and her brother were Good Germans. Mein Kamphf sat next to a copy of The Bible. There was a healthy stack of The People’s Press by the reading lamp. The kitchen was tidy, all the morning dishes put away, a bit of a lingering scent of coffee. Further back in the hallway were the bedrooms. It was still early enough that Tara hadn’t yet gone around to straighten things up.

The first bedroom, he knew, belonged to her. The bed was a mess, a tangle of sheets, and the room was heavy with the scent of sex. And, yes, interestingly, the scent was decidedly female. Made him kind of wish he’d been there. Just a fly on the wall. Maybe more. They were very pretty girls, after all. Caleb was sucked into the room, too. The two of them and the brother stood staring at the bed, stupidly, really. The picture was clear enough. They were just breathing in the perfume. And dreaming.

Spike finally turned and led the party back to the hall. Next room was the brother’s. One quick pass inside said it all. Smelled like a man’s room. Shaving kit on the bureau. Socks and pants thrown about in typical manly fashion. It was clear that Captain Maclay was home for just a short leave.

The last room surprised him. It was a children’s room. One of the siblings—probably the brother--had sons. Counting the beds, it seemed there were three or possibly four. The room was covered in dust, and it was cold and stale. Clearly the boys had been gone for a while. One of the beds had been turned down, and there were a few women’s items laying about—a comb, a lipstick, a skirt. Miss Rosenberg had been staying here. But there wasn’t much else. No suitcase or anything else that would indicate she actually lived in the apartment any more.

So far the story was panning out. As they made their way through the place, Caleb had been on hideout detail, opening closets, checking under beds and couches, kicking up carpets—all of the usual places you might find signs of hiding spots, or, if you were lucky, your fugitive. “The place is clean,” Caleb said quietly.

They returned to the parlour where the sister sat looking miserable on the couch. Her face was beet red and her eyes red-rimmed. Everybody had learned some secrets today. And Miss Tara’s were the most embarrassing of all. Spike’s heart went out to her momentarily, and then he shoved the tenderness back down again. Tara wasn’t off the hook yet. They’d have to tail her for a while longer to see if her lover came back. If Red had the nerve to screw a captain’s sister in his own house, then she was clearly nervier than he might have thought from the doe-eyed photograph he carried. Now this Willow interested him.

“Where are the children?” Caleb was asking the Maclays.

Tara answered, her voice broken and defeated. Spike liked that. It suited her. “I sent them to the country to stay with their aunt after the November air raids.” That seemed to track with the evidence.

“They’re my boys. My wife is dead. Tara looks after them, since I’m away from home for long periods of time,” Donald said.

“Why didn’t you go with them out to the country where it’s safer?” Caleb asked Tara.

She shrugged. “This is my home. I guess I thought they’d be back here by now. And they would have been except for the last air raid. Plus Riley was here with me part of the time.”

“That’s her fiancé,” Donald added, helpfully. Oh, yeah, brother, nice opportunity to remind us your little sister is only a part-time lesbian.

Caleb and Spike left shortly after that, leaving the Maclays with the standard call-us-if-you-have-any-contact-or-information. On the street, they both lit cigarettes and compared notes.

“Good job, Blood,” Caleb said as he puffed to light his cigarette in the wind. “We practically had her. How did you know she was staying there?”

Spike blew a stream of smoke out onto the wind. “I’d spotted her with a redhead a couple weeks ago. I couldn’t see if it was our girl, but I got a good look at the blond. Came back a few times until I had a chance to follow her. I wasn’t sure. Just a hunch, but it panned out. Lucky, I guess.”

“We don’t have her yet. But I think the family’s telling the truth.”

Spike chuckled. “Who’d have thought little Red would turn out to be a firecracker.”

Caleb shook his head. “The damn Jews! The ones who are left are getting desperate. Seems like they’ll do practically anything to ensure they get off the streets. Our girl Willow happened onto a very good thing. Who knows how long it might have gone on if the brother hadn’t caught them.”

Spike worked at being casual. “So where shall we be off to next? The phone company?”

Caleb nodded. “Just perfunctory, though. You and I both know she’s not there and never was. Just more lies. But I guess it’s on the way to our next stop.”

“Where’s that?”

“Back to the university. This is going to be a big day over there. Wouldn’t want to miss it.”

Caleb’s grin was dark. Spike couldn’t help smiling himself.

##

Tara couldn’t have moved off the couch if she tried. She felt like the entirety of her had curled into a hard little ball. She’d stopped crying. Donnie was still standing in front of the door, staring at it as if he expected the SS men to return. Or as if he kept replaying their conversation in his head. Finally, he threw up his hands in disgust and paced back into the parlour. Tara waited for the other shoe to fall.

“Good God, Tara. I just lied to the Gestapo!” He was clearly agitated. He paced back and forth in front of her. “Do you understand what that means? If they ever find out I essentially aided and abetted a wanted criminal!”

Tara found her voice. “Why did you?”

He stopped short, staring at her like she was insane. “Tara, Wilma wasn’t truthful with us. She put us in a very bad spot. But I don’t want to see her dead. Which is what she’ll be if they catch her.”

For the second time today—or was it third—Donnie was surprising her. Basic human compassion was winning out over strict military training.

But his flexibility only went so far in this regard. He pointed a finger at her. “But. I meant what I said about her being out of here. I don’t want to see her again. If I see her again, I’ll turn her in myself. You call her up at work and tell her she’s not welcome here. Or I will.”

“I’ll do it,” Tara said.

“And you understand, of course, that you can’t see her again. You’ve got to break it off. If they catch you together again, you’ll be as dead as she is. And, really, a little roll in the hay, no matter how good, isn’t worth it. It’s not worth your safety or your future. They’ll be watching you. You don’t know what the secret police are capable of. But I do.”

##


Tara felt amazingly detached from her body. She didn’t know how to absorb all that had happened. She was left mortified and scared by the visit from the detectives and unsafe knowing that they were watching her. Which meant the neighbors would be watching her. Which meant that anything strange she said or did would be likely to prompt a phone call to the authorities for suspicious behavior. That’s if the authorities who would be watching her like a hawk didn’t pick her up for something innocuous. Why did it seem like the whole world wanted to hurt each other? She felt angry at the times. She felt angry that Willow had endangered her without saying anything. Rationally, she understood why Willow felt like she couldn’t tell her. But the dishonesty of it hung there, revealed and stark. She felt stupid for thinking that the two of them shared some rare connection that was completely real and honest and present. Tara should have been old enough to see through that, that people will do and say anything in bed like it’s all make-believe. Maybe she thought with a woman it was different. Mostly, Tara felt unfathomably empty.

Donnie was in another room. He was angry with her for compromising the safety of the family. He knew she didn’t mean to. He’d get over it. But for now he was mad. And she was mad at herself. What had started as a great day had turned black so quickly it made her head spin.

She picked up a discarded copy of The People’s Press from the floor and searched inside for the office phone number. Damn that girl. Tara didn’t know whether Willow was exceedingly clever and brave or exceedingly dumb and suicidal to be working for the Nazi newspaper.

She asked for Wilma Hermann and was placed on hold for what seemed like forever. Finally with a click a voice was there again.

“This is Wilma.”

“Willow.”

There was a long pause as the girl on the other end of the line processed. Tara now understood that the hesitancy was fear that her identity had been found out. Then there was a relieved sigh as Willow apparently finished going through the short list of people who knew her by that name and recognized the voice.

“Tara?” Willow sounded small and a bit spooked.

“I’m sorry to interrupt you at work. I need to tell you something,” Tara replied.

“Something as in good news or something as in a bad something…or a neutral oh-by-the-way something, maybe?”

“It’s not good.”

Tara could feel Willow’s fear. Her voice was even smaller: “Ok, how not good?”

“S- some men came by the apartment this morning.”

Willow was silent.

“They were looking for you. F- for Willow…Rosenberg.”

A pause, followed by a shaky sigh. Tara pictured Willow sitting hunched over her desk, her forehead resting on her hand, trying to make herself small and quiet and quite possibly invisible.

“Oh, God, Tara. I’m so sorry. Are- are you all right? They- they didn’t…”

“I’m fine,” Tara said, a bit too abruptly.

Willow was silent on the other end of the line and then pressed again. “They didn’t hurt you? Or- or threaten you or your brother?”

Tara thought of the stinging humiliation of the men pawing through her bedroom and what conclusions they came to. She struggled to keep the edge out of her voice. “No, they didn’t threaten or hurt us. But you can’t—“

Willow interrupted her. Her voice was heavy. “I know.”

“You ca-can’t come back here,” Tara said. “And they’ll be wa- watching me, so...”

Willow’s voice a whisper: “I know.”

Another pause as they both sat a moment with the heaviness of it. Life had gotten impossibly harder.

“Did you tell them where to—uh, where I work?” Willow asked slowly.

“No.”

“Do you guys, um, plan to tell them where I work?”

Tara was almost insulted by that question, by Willow’s lack of faith in her, her underestimation of Tara’s humanity. “No.”

“Is your brother going to kill me?”

“No.”

“Are you going to kill me?” The question floated lightly, though its meaning was anything but.

“No.”

“I’m so sorry, baby. I didn’t mean to drag you into this. It wasn’t fair of me. I just—I just wish we’d have had more time. I know that’s selfish. Everything’s selfish. And stupid…” Tara could tell Willow was crying now.

“Shh, sweetie. Don’t fall apart in the middle of the newsroom. You’ve got to keep it together. It’s going to be all right.” She wasn’t sure of that last part, but it seemed like the only thing to say.

“Tara, I’d give—I’d give anything for more time. This can’t be over. I just—It just was getting really good, you know?”

Tara had trouble finding her voice. “I know.”

“I- I can’t believe this is happening. I don’t want to go. I don’t want this to be it. This can’t be it.”

“Shhhh.”

Another long pause. “I’m not going to see you again, am I?”

Tara was silent. She didn’t know. Suddenly, she became aware of the finality which Willow seemed to have comprehended all along.

“I meant what I said earlier.” Willow’s voice dropped to a whisper: “I love you.”

Tara couldn’t find words. Willow sighed. Tara imagined her nervously running a hand through red hair. “I’m- I’m sorry…I- I should go. God, I’ll miss you, Tara. I miss you.” She chuckled ruefully, “I already do.”

“Willow. Be safe.”

“It’s- it’s ok. I’m going. I- I love you.”

When the line went dead, Tara felt stung and floaty. She clung to the receiver a moment, as if doing so would preserve this link of metal wires that led directly from her to her lover. Former lover. She imagined Willow holding the phone on her end, as well.

Finally, Tara set the phone back in its cradle. Her life didn’t feel any simpler.


##

Hans Gruber looked up from his desk and surveyed the newsroom. Reports were coming in from the universities that the government was rounding up more students and faculty members for traitorous activities. He rubbed the bridge of his nose, feeling depressed. This time it wasn’t just a handful. Days like this made him feel tired and raw. Then he spotted Wilma Hermann smoothing tears away from her eyes, looking like she was doing everything she could to hold it all together. His heart went out to her. He swiveled out of his chair and sauntered to his office door, calling to her.

“Miss Hermann.”

She didn’t look up from her copyediting. Did she not hear him? “Hermann!”

The girl jolted in her chair as if she’d been shocked, locking eyes with him. She looked terrified. He motioned to her to come into his office. She rose slowly and marched as if expecting to be fired. Gruber was puzzled. He wasn’t an expert in young women, but then with Miss Hermann he didn’t need to be. She was an open book to him.

As she entered his office he invited her to take a seat. He went to his desk drawer and yanked it open, pulling out a revolver and dropping it heavily on his desk. The young woman jumped in fear.

“Settle, settle. I’m not going to shoot.” He quirked a smile and reached into the desk drawer again and this time withdrew a bottle of gin which he set on the desk beside the gun. He raised his eyebrows in entreaty. “You look like you could use this.”

“The revolver?” Miss Hermann quipped. He liked her. That brought the first smile to his face all day.

He set out two glasses and poured. One for him and one for her. He handed her the glass and then took a seat at his desk. He squinted at her a moment. There was something about her that he found very interesting. She wasn’t like other girls in the office. She had a sharp mind and worked harder than just about anybody in the newsroom. Himself included. He felt a fatherly pride in her. As if he really wanted to see her succeed in life. But life these days seemed to be treating everyone hard.

He tipped back the drink and let the liquor slide down his throat, warming him. He eyed her carefully as she did the same. She held the glass out for a refill. He chuckled and obliged.

“I know why I’m in a bad mood today,” he said carefully, “but I don’t know why you’re blue. Perhaps you could tell me.”

Those pretty eyes were red-rimmed. And still they were pretty. She rubbed them again as if to erase the evidence of her tears. As she composed herself, he tried to guess what she’d say. Boyfriend problems. He had his money on that.

“A- a fight,” she said, her voice small and shaky. “A bad one. It- caught me by surprise. I’m really sorry it’s affecting my work today. I’m very interested in the stories about the student arrests. I’m really paying attention. I- I’m just-, I just…It’s not a great day for me.”

He smiled a fatherly smile, pleased that he’d guessed right. He could always read her.

“Your work is fine,” Gruber dismissed her worries with a wave. “But you look like you could use a distraction.”

The girl held up the glass. “Uh, this is a fairly, um, effective distraction. And I must say that for not being much of a drinker, I seem to have a glass growing out of my hand lately.”

“These are good times for the liquor business.”

“Are there any bad ones?”

Touche. He chuckled again. He regarded her as she swallowed down the second glass of gin, her face contorting with the fire in her throat and bitterness on her tongue.

It was decided. “You’re coming with me to dinner tonight. I’m meeting a few SS officers, and I think they’d like your company.”

Miss Hermann shook her head. “I- I really appreciate the offer and the kindness, but I really feel like being alone tonight. And besides, I’m not dressed for it.”

Gruber’s face settled into dead seriousness. “Don’t make me use the gun.”

Green eyes widened. She didn’t laugh.

Did he really frighten her so much? He wondered why.

##

Donald was watching Tara closely. He didn’t even try to conceal his scrutiny as they ate their meal across the table from each other in uncomfortable silence. Tara kept her head down. Over the course of the afternoon and evening his mood had darkened considerably. It took everything she had in her to ignore him and pretend that nothing had happened, that nothing from the day bothered her in the least, that it was back to life as usual—back to life before. She was a terrible liar, though.

A deep sigh and then Donald finally set in on her. “I’m closing up the house,” he announced.

Her head snapped up. “And what?”

“You’ll go out to the country and stay with Beth and the kids. It’s safer outside the city. I should have sent you a long time ago.”

Tara didn’t think a 28-year-old woman deserved “sending.” She could make her own decisions. She gazed at him ruefully.

“Don’t give me that crap,” he spat, as if she’d argued with him. As siblings, they didn’t really need words to have a conversation. “You know I’m right. And if you refuse me I’ll know it’s because of her.”

Tara felt her face redden, but she refused to be baited.

He proceeded as if she had taken the bait. “You’re an engaged woman. You have a fiancé. You’ll get married and start a family. It’s time you stopped with these big-city notions. You’ve had plenty of time to play. I dare say you’ve had more time than I took before I started my own family and the obligations caught up with me as they will with you, too. You should thank me for being an understanding brother. But there’s too much temptation here. I mean, that’s fairly obvious. You can’t deny that. There are too many opportunities to fall in with the wrong crowd, and it’s not only disrespectful to your future husband, it’s also dangerous to this family. Some time out at the farm will give you some perspective on this. I know you don’t like what I’m saying now. But you’ll understand the wisdom of it later.”

She doubted that. Tara had never considered her brother particularly wise. Especially when it came to her. He had her pegged to a certain extent. She was a romantic, and she did have romantic notions about living in the big city. What he never understood was how wrong the farm felt to her, how stifling, how suffocating. That’s why she’d chosen to send Donald’s children to live with Beth while she risked bombs falling on her apartment to stay in Berlin. It had taken an extreme effort to go against her family’s wishes and move here in the first place. She knew if she left now she’d be stuck there until the end of the war. And then she’d be Riley’s wife—expected to follow him wherever he’d have them go next. Her chest tightened with the knowledge of her own future and how much suddenly she couldn’t stand the thought of it.

Had one month with Willow dumped her world-view so upside down that she’d never be satisfied with the life she was expected to live? Four weeks had made one thing crystal clear: She didn’t love Riley. Her heart ached instead for something much more dangerous—even deadly. A Jewish girl named Willow. It was all madness and passion and lust, given and received in equal measures. It was perfect, in fact. But it would never work. There was no family in a future with Willow. There was no comfortable home, with a cozy front porch. In fact, there was no future. There never could be one. Willow wouldn’t be able to evade the Gestapo forever. They had her assumed name. They knew she went by the name Wilma. Willow was a very brave, very stupid girl whose time was running out.

She let a tear roll down her cheek, but refused to meet Donald’s eyes.

His voice was quiet, taking her silence for acquiescence. “Everything will be right when Riley gets back. You’ll see.”

The house fell into a hush then, with just the sounds of scraping dishes as they continued to eat their dinner. The phone rang, making them both jump. Tara was closer, so she rose to answer it. She fought to keep her voice steady, succeeding more than she thought possible. It was Xander calling for Wilma.

“She- she wasn’t at work when I tried her there. I really need to talk to her, to know she’s safe.”

Tara crafted her words carefully. She knew Donald was watching her. “Wilma’s not here…Wh- why are you concerned about her safety?”

Xander paused, clearly trying to figure out how much to tell Tara, and finally giving in to: “It’s another friend of ours. She’s dead, and I’m worried about Wilma.”

“Is this other friend a Jew, too?” Tara asked lightly.

There was shocked silence on the other end of the line, and then: “Shit! Please, no.” He hung there a long moment. “Is she- did they--?”

Tara’s voice was harder than she intended. “Some detectives came by earlier today. I- I called her at work and gave her a heads-up.” She paused. “She won’t be coming back here.”

Xander’s tone grew more desperate. “Do you know where she intends to go? Did she say anything?”

She told me she loved me. Tara sighed. “She didn’t tell me where she was going. I’m afraid you’ll just have to wait for her to contact you.”

“What do they know?”

Tara flicked a cautious look at her brother who was frowning. “They know her name is Willow Rosenberg. And they know she’s going by the name Wilma.”

More anguished cursing from Xander, and a bigger frown from her brother.

Xander composed himself and then ventured a last question. “The detectives. Were their names Blood and Caleb?”

Tara was surprised he would know that. “Uh- yes,” she breathed.

“They work in my department,” Xander offered. Then he stopped, as if he’d realized he’d said too much, as if it just occurred to him that she might not be on Willow’s side. And Xander’s side. It clicked in Tara’s mind at the same time that Xander was just as brave and stupid as Willow for working for the Nazis.

His voice was small and helpless. “Please, Tara. You must realize how bad a situation we’re in. Please don’t tell them anything. Or we don’t have a chance.”

“I- don’t have anything else to tell them,” she assured. In her estimation they already didn’t have a chance. She wanted to wish him luck, but with Donald watching her, she had to play it neutral.

“Thanks, Tara…And I’m really very sorry I got you mixed up in all of this. Really, I am. You’re too good a person to have done that to, and I’m sorry. It’s- it’s just that I need Willow. I love her. She’s my family.”

Tara felt hot tears want to come, but she forced them back. She said nothing. She didn’t trust her voice.

“Good-bye, Tara.”

The line went dead and Tara found herself holding the receiver a moment more for the second time today, wanting to prolong a connection that was severing and realizing it had been destined to sever all along. She just hadn’t known it.

When she finally returned to the table, Donnie had a self-satisfied smirk on his face.

“Her friends are worried, now, eh?” he said. “Means the hounds are closing in. It won’t be long, and all this will be behind us.” He seemed relieved.

Tara didn’t feel relieved.

##


Willow Rosenberg was dead.

And Wilma Hermann was about to be.

That was the mantra that seemed to revolve around and around Willow’s mind all day since she’d received the phone call from Tara. That phone call. The terrible one that would resonate with all the devastation of an avalanche until her dying breath, which was probably not far away now. She glanced as casually as possible around the table of the restaurant and her head swam at the sight of the sea of officers’ uniforms. All she could see were the outfits. The faces had all become a blur. She’d been fueled by adrenaline all day. Her head ached from the gin and her mouth felt cottony and sour. Gruber was her anchor, sitting to her side, chatting the Nazis up as natural as can be.

There were a couple of other women at the table. Wives or girlfriends, perhaps, of the officers. She was there as Gruber’s date. Well, not a date, exactly, since he was her employer and old enough to be her father, and he seemed interested in her company as a father might. She told herself that again. It was better than thinking that he was leading her into a trap, that he’d figured out she was a Jew—or someone had told him—and he was just biding his time until he deposited her with one of these fine officers at the end of the evening. Or maybe he’d coerce her into a compromising position in order to retain her freedom. How far was she willing to go? What would she put on the line in order not to die?

She’d already put Tara on the line. That was why Tara had been so mad. She was scared. Understandable. Well, welcome to the hellmouth. For a few days Tara would experience some of the fear Willow had felt practically every day of her life for the past five years, since neighbors had taken her parents away on what the Nazis later came to call The Night of Broken Glass, or Crystal Nacht—really too pretty a name for what should have been called Hate Night. She’d been 16. And in the space of a few hours, the years of politicking that she’d tried not to think too much about before the November 1938 riots settled firmly into her young mind. It became real in the way a verbal threat becomes real when it’s followed by a punch to the gut.

So at 16, she understood the evil that stalked the streets of Berlin—and every hamlet in the nation—in a way that the gentiles never would. Because the seeds of darkness were held in their own hearts. People like Tara lived in a different Germany than Willow did. One that affirmed and celebrated their inherent superiority. Which was based solely on their race. Which was a load of baloney, if you looked at it objectively, with all the facts. Which the gentiles had no motivation to do, apparently. They were too busy being aggrandized—and loving every minute of it. After five or ten years of being told over and over that you were God’s chosen people, the most magnificent people to ever walk the planet and that the Beautiful People could only maintain their status and purity by driving out all that was supposedly dirty, as if scrubbing the streets clean of disease germs living among them, people like Tara had been taught to think of people like Willow as the equivalent of gangrene. Conveniently, they didn’t think about the disinfectant the government employed to wipe out the germs. And to try to reveal it, as Buffy and her student dissident friends had tried, was senseless. Because the Chosen, Beautiful People were too invested in seeing themselves as perfect to accept something so ugly. It made them want to rid themselves of those germs, too.

Even as she smiled at the officers now and made appropriate small talk, she was mentally slapping herself for letting herself sink so fully and comfortably into her life with Tara, into Tara herself. If Willow stepped back objectively she recognized her own folly. She could pretend to be a Chosen, Beautiful Person all she wanted. But she wasn’t one. She was a germ. She was gangrene. Her worth as an individual was irrelevant. She was disease.

Tonight, sitting in a fine restaurant, surrounded by the sworn protectors of the Good Germans she’d foolishly assumed she could blend in with, she was filled with the reality that she couldn’t. She never would. She bore her germ status just as surely as if she wore the Star of David on her chest. It filled her entire being because it was her entire experience. This—this was just farce. A few weeks of practice based on what she thought Nazis and their sympathizers were like. She was a terrible liar.

But tonight, she had to be a superb one. As if everything depended upon it. And it did. So she smiled and laughed and raised her wine glass in toasts that the men suggested in their merriment and engaged in yet another set-piece of normalcy that was part of the stage play of Wilma Hermann’s life. Knowing that at the end of the evening the curtain would fall on her performance and she’d be out on the street, apparently, since her warm and loving home was wrecked. Yet again.

Funny how everything came back to Tara. All her mental ramblings led back to the one thing, the one huge lesson she had just learned: She loved Tara. She couldn’t have steeled her heart and not have loved her. She’d risked everything to cross that line and taste joy. Their relationship hadn’t required words. Words these days were hurtful, hateful little knives sharpened by evil men. Words were not to be trusted. Instead it was actions that spoke truth. Willow knew what Tara was saying with every kiss and every touch, and Willow had conversed with her in a similar tongue—a language built on touches, on physical and emotional openness, the small intimacies that couldn’t be faked. What had sprung up for Willow was a knowledge of Tara’s beauty that had nothing to do with her Aryan perfection but with her Willow perfection: They simply fit. If there was one thing she was sure of in this fucked-up world, it was that. But what she didn’t know was whether Tara could set aside the hateful indoctrination of words and see the real language that flowed between them. And even if she could see it, feel it, crave it in the same way Willow did, would she risk her Chosen-one status to be a germ? To Willow it felt like there was no choice. She had to make every day count. She had to love and breathe and eat and drink and pack as much living in to her waking hours as she could. Tara had only to wait out the war. Tara had a whole life ahead of her. Willow’s whole life was now.

Damn it, busy brain, stay on task. For a moment. she wished she could follow Xander’s advice to let alcohol turn off her rapid internal multi-tasking and just focus on having a good time. In Tara’s presence she’d been able to do that. It was trickier here to stay focused, what with all the mental untangling going on in her head. Willow-brain was a very busy place tonight.

She could tell by Gruber’s glowing that she was doing a fine job. That reassured her a little. But she hoped he wouldn’t try to be her friend. The veneer that was Wilma Hermann was far, far too thin to bear it.

At the end of the evening, Gruber gentlemanly offered to drive her home. She grew quiet. They were out on the street now, at his car, and he was asking where he could take her. She made up her mind quickly and gave him the address. She wasn’t ready to give up everything just yet.

##

It was late, but Tara insisted on sitting up and reading the evening’s edition of The People’s Press. Donnie had gone off to bed with a few terse words about heading back to the Front the day after tomorrow. She’d offered to do his laundry. He’d made her agree to go to the country, though she’d got him to agree to let her stay in town for a short while longer to close up the house and put all their household affairs in order.

She couldn’t fool herself. She wanted another chance to see Willow. That’s why she insisted on staying. That’s why she was reading the newspaper. That’s why she sat up late, listening intently for familiar footsteps on the stairs. If the detectives had not come by today, Willow would already be here now. She would have arrived hours ago for dinner. They would have greeted each other in the darkened hall. Willow would have pulled something small from her pocket—a colorful rock? A paperweight from the newspaper office? A love poem? Tara was certain she would have kissed Willow there in the entryway. Not some chaste peck on the cheek. She would have drawn Willow in, holding her wind-chilled face in warm hands and kissed her gently, waiting for that moment when Willow’s mouth would seemingly melt open, and they’d be simultaneously suffused with the longing and comfort of being inside each other.

Tara knew she wanted to watch that beautiful mouth as they ate dinner together, watch it later as they sat in the parlour talking about the news of the day—the funny bits and pieces, the silly observations, the interesting or unsettling conversations she’d had on the telephone as she interviewed news sources to check facts. And then, right about now, in fact, she’d be watching again as that mouth worked its way down Tara’s body, setting it on fire.

Instead, she sat here under the glow of the floor lamp beside the chair, learning about the bits and pieces of the day from text, instead of from her source. She was having trouble imagining the funny parts that had gone on behind the scenes. She tossed the newspaper to the floor beside her and watched out the window instead. She wondered what Willow was doing right now.

##


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